2014 to be a year of upgrades for many healthcare organizations

Health IT data storage is migrating to the cloud and will cause infrastructure realignment. On top of that, is your security plan ready?

What's in your 2014 IT plan, healthcare CIOs? Its success hinges on its alignment with organizational goals and its ability to adapt and adopt innovations and technologies that have a direct impact on reduction of costs. This would improve patient care as well as the practitioner experience and, by extension, productivity.

In looking at the areas upon which many healthcare organizations likely will focus for the coming year, here's a punch list to review against your own implementation plan:

Technology and infrastructure alignment: Within healthcare, several 2014 IT initiatives have deadlines and specific requirements: ICD-10, meaningful use, accountable care organization participation, health information exchange and of course the usual ongoing system upgrades. There are also projects involving system integrations with acquired hospitals and physician groups. All these are part of an organization's overall roadmap; IT staff must ensure it is fully prepared to deliver and successfully support these systems and their users. The initial planning can be around identifying whether IT has adequate resources and talent available to ensure the success of all the initiatives' requirements.

The economies of storage: Every day, hospitals collect and consume an enormous volume of data, which is growing in complexity. Along with that, health IT data storage needs are growing. Storage vendors offer a variety of options to choose from. IT executives must be able to identify the right storage platform and vendor that will deliver performance, capacity, fault tolerance and flexibility without jeopardizing quality. Solid-state drive, flash-based or even hybrid storage solutions are just a few types that can be considered.

Data security: Last year, security drew more attention than in previous years, in part because of HIPAA rules mirrored in meaningful use requirements. But compliance isn't the only driver: Due to government document leaks and, recently, the news of Target's credit card data breach -- the second-largest in history -- lax data security is becoming even more concerning to IT executives. Within healthcare, the stakes are higher with the millions of stored records, and any breach can result in significant HIPAA violations and impact a health system. Security experts are seeing an increase in audits requests by hospitals to evaluate and implement further safeguards that can improve their security systems.

2014 health IT deadlines and concerns

Mapping the ICD-10 changeover

Stage 2 of meaningful use gets an extension

Data governance needed to comply with HIPAA

Cloud services: The increase of cloud service providers has created an aggressive advantage point for providers in the market to purchase such services. With a highly competitive landscape, we are seeing more cost-effective offerings, and more IT executives are electing to go the cloud route for some of the products and services they are seeking. It is still too early to consider desktop in the cloud, as many are still attempting to roll virtual desktop infrastructures on premise. However, with more and more choices for cloud-based, healthcare-specific applications, the transition to the cloud continues to gain momentum.

Big data: For all the data that is being consumed, we are continuing to see interest in this arena. While it can be a complex task to identify how IT can implement a big data initiative and leverage the data collected internally, with the availability of some of the tools in the marketplace, big data is no longer a challenging or intimidating project.

Every year, technology trends can shift slightly. While mobile devices continue to take on the role of the preferred way to access information, there are still some challenges associated with it. But with all the innovations and proven effectiveness of some of the other technologies, IT executives are more convinced to fully adopt some of the new technologies available in order to bring about change to their healthcare organization while still staying in line with organizational goals.

Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in January 2014

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