The new focus of health IT

Keith A. Reynolds

Patient engagement has supplanted artificial intelligence as the chief focus for health system CIOs in 2021 beside supporting their COVID-19 response.

The COVID-19 pandemic jumpstarted the nation’s move to virtual health care while also raising expectations for what these digital health experiences should be like.

According to a report from Stoltenberg Consulting, the firm’s ninth annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey found that more than half, 52 percent, hospital and health system CIOs say that patient engagement is their main focus in 2021 beside supporting their organization’s COVID-19 response. This is a big change from last year’s survey where the respondents said they were prioritizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This year only 14 percent of respondents are chiefly focused on AI.

The respondents this year seem less concerned with addressing increased marketplace competition as only 9 percent see it as a top focus, which is a drop from 30 percent last year. Contrarily, interoperability remains a top area of focus with about 15 percent of respondents citing it as their greatest priority, the report says.

About a third, 31 percent, of respondents say that their biggest IT investments this year will likely go toward upgrading EHR systems. Many health systems will also be doing double and triple jumps in version upgrades for EHR to keep up after these things were delayed due to the pandemic, according to the report.

As for top mission-critical priorities, cybersecurity reigns supreme with 33 percent followed by EHR upgrades with 30 percent, likely due to the spike in cybersecurity events which targeted healthcare facilities in 2021, the report says.

The respondents’ biggest financial goal was getting the most of their existing IT purchases, 59 percent, with organizations seeking to get their money’s worth, according to the report.