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Five key components of a future-proof health IT strategy

As healthcare executives begin to build their technology roadmaps, AI and advanced analytics, as well as continuing to focus on security, are essential components to include.

Healthcare executives are frequently reminded of just how valuable technology is to their organization when they...

look around and see the impact it brings to patient care. Unfortunately, not every technology initiative hospitals undertake delivers the desired outcomes, which can leave many questioning what is and is not worth their investment. Today's successful executives rely on their experience and perspective to determine which technologies are worth their consideration and which are just hype. In looking at current technology trends and the state of the marketplace, some IT executives have already placed their bets on five key technologies they see as must-haves to future-proof their health IT strategy and deliver tangible results to their staff and patients.

Hospital IT leadership generally focuses on aligning their IT initiatives with their organization's strategies and objectives. Their role puts them front and center in terms of deciding or influencing what technology initiatives are put on the roadmap and adopted by the organization. However, there are always risks with new technology, and CIOs and CMIOs are mindful of maintaining a balance when it comes to adopting a technology trend that is considered too new. In many cases, with risk comes great reward, and that's a bet some executives are willing to make on technology. For executives defining what their technology roadmap should include, these five technologies and components are essential to any health IT strategy.

A shift from on-premises to cloud-based services

There are a number of reasons why cloud is here to stay and will be a key role in a hospital's health IT strategy. As cloud providers introduce more services, IT departments have to respond quickly and scale their infrastructure to meet the demand for computing services. Cloud providers have proved they can deliver that flexibility and speed while keeping costs down. As a result, cloud services continue to be an area in which hospitals will continue their journey forward with their infrastructure. This is the result of the ROI, flexibility and ease of management of cloud-based services that replace on-premises services.

CIOs are also more confident in the security safeguards that today's popular cloud service providers offer to protect healthcare data. With a pay-as-you-go model, healthcare organizations are able to pay for what they use and at the same time reduce their infrastructure footprint. This shift to the cloud also enables IT staff to spend more time improving systems and implementing new beneficial services while spending less time maintaining traditional infrastructure.

Advanced analytics and AI to support hospital goals

Artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning have forever changed the way we see data and interact with systems. Today, everyone gets to experience the results of AI in everything we interact with, from personal assistants at home helping with day-to-day tasks to the use of the technology to detect abnormalities in clinical images and difficult to detect diseases. The technology has matured significantly over the last decade due to the computing power available, and advancements in algorithms and data available in the healthcare field.

AI is also becoming a key differentiator for some health systems that are early adopters of the technology, and are setting themselves apart by applying its capabilities to patient care in a number of ways. CIOs recognize that it is in their best interest to evaluate the different intelligence and analytics services they can benefit from and decide which components they can include in their roadmap.

Experimentation and innovation are critical for progress

Healthcare executives are always on the lookout for innovative and creative solutions that can help advance their progress toward reaching their goals. Technology offers a number of opportunities for organizations to advance care, improve workflows and reduce medical errors. The reality is that building innovative solutions to common problems can come from within, and that's usually needed in defining a provider or an IT-led team from the group, and then providing them with technology resources in order to solve some of the hospital's challenges. As part of a health IT strategy, executives should have a place for their teams to innovate and experiment; this will promote open conversations around what their teams can bring to the table and can help support new initiatives.

Security and compliance are part of new initiatives

Another important area that hospitals wrestle with on a regular basis is how to mitigate their risks for data breaches and system outages when introducing new devices into the facility. Adoption of cloud services has also added another level of concern as data is now no longer under the watchful eye of IT within the network's firewalls but generally stored in a private or public service. This transfer of data storage and management to outside entities adds another layer of complexity when it comes to evaluating cloud provider security.

IoT and connected devices are becoming the norm

The explosion of fitness trackers and wearables has forced hospitals to consider ways to catch up and define how patient-generated data can be captured as well. In parallel, the increase in IoT adoption is also encouraging CIOs to look for ways to capture other data within their facilities. This new push for capturing data using small devices is proving to support a number of key health initiatives around remote patient monitoring and engagement. As part of their long-term health IT strategy, CIOs will need to ensure that they can use wearables and IoT to connect with patients, and track relevant data through different sensors.

With the constant changes seen in the technology landscape and continuous flow of products and services coming into focus, many CIOs face the challenge of defining what technologies will add value to patient care and support the hospital goals, and which ones are simply a distraction. The list above offers an outline of what technology trends that many CIOs are actively engaged in or are planning for, but it should not stop them from defining their own initiatives they see fit for their organization.

This was last published in January 2018

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