A lot has changed in healthcare over the past 100 years. The pacemaker, the kidney transplant, penicillin, and dialysis are just a few of the many great and life-changing developments of the past century.

In a similar way, the IT systems and procedures that support the administration of medical care have advanced. The role of the healthcare IT professional, which was nonexistent until relatively recently, continues to evolve and grow, with new concerns and priorities surfacing constantly.

This passage from a Modern Healthcare article on the changing role of the healthcare CIO sums up this shift perfectly:

“As in other industries, CIOs in healthcare are becoming key advisers to the CEO and important figures in board meetings, a dramatic shift from less than a decade ago. The change reflects the sprawling role technology now plays in the overall operational and strategic viability of hospitals and health systems.” (Modern Healthcare)

In an increasingly digital world, IT plays more of a role than ever in nearly every facet of healthcare. Here are some of the key issues, gathered from some of the most current reports and surveys on healthcare IT.

1. Focus on Digitalization

Digitalization has such an impact on our everyday life, that most of us rarely think of it as a formal idea. But in IT, it’s a top trend, which is echoed in the amount of money being allocated toward it.

According to Gartner, digitalization is “the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.”

Related to the healthcare industry, that can refer to a wide range of technologies that help make healthcare more effective, more informed, and more likely to lead to positive outcomes for patients.

Examples include such diverse technologies as wearables and EHRs (electronic health records). On another level, the transformation of paper forms to web forms could be another example of digitalization.

In Gartner’s own 2017 survey of CIOs in all industries, they found that in 2017, CIOs in a wide range of industries planned to spend 18 percent of their budgets on digitalization; in 2018, that number is expected to increase to 28 percent.

2. Need to Respond to Heightened Cybersecurity Threats

On Friday, May 12, 2017, organizations, businesses, and computer users in almost 100 countries were hit with a ransomware attack known as WannaCrypt/WannaCry. By the following Monday, the affected countries climbed to 150, and some 45,000 computers were still affected.

Among the many organizations affected, were no less than 16 of the England National Health Services hospitals. With their computers targeted in this attack, health care providers were unable to look up patient records and perform their jobs optimally.

As salient as this recent example was, ransomware attacks aren’t just rare occurrences; and neither are data breaches. A study conducted by the Ponemon Institute in 2016 found that data breaches had occurred at almost 90 percent of healthcare organizations involved the survey over the previous two years. Almost 50 percent of the same pool had experienced over five breaches.

This year and moving forward, healthcare IT professionals will be looking for ways to reduce the probability of cybersecurity threats and quickly mitigate those that happen despite their best efforts.

For information about how to avoid a data breach, view this blog post.

3. Comparatively Larger Budget Increase

With the increased interest in digitization, the increased need for cybersecurity, and increased desire to leverage data efficiently and responsibly, healthcare budgets may grow faster than other industries and spending may see an increase this year.

In contrast, the results of a Gartner survey pointed to only a 2.2 percent IT budget increase worldwide for CIOs in multiple industries.

This bodes well for healthcare IT professionals with plans to increase spending on key tools and solutions, but care must be taken to spend wisely on solutions that are a sensible, efficient use of their budgets.

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