Health IT Teams Are Facing Many Challenges in 2019

Samara Rosenfeld
MARCH 21, 2019
technology

The Health Information Technology (IT) Industry Outlook survey conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting revealed that the most important objective of health IT leaders in 2019 is updating technology to improve the patient experience.

More than 300 healthcare professionals participated in the seventh annual Health IT Industry Outlook survey, representing health systems, standalone hospitals, physician practices and ambulatory care facilities. Health systems made up 61 percent of participants, while clinical IT professionals made up 38 percent of the participants and 36 percent were executive and C-suite leaders.

“Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has been rapidly changing. By asking top leaders in the health IT industry annually about their priorities and where they stand on various topics, we can better understand the challenges and opportunities related to improving patient care and operational efficiency overall and help healthcare organizations achieve their goals.”  - Dan O’Connor, vice president of client relations at Stoltenberg Consulting

Focusing on Patient Experience

The survey found that 42 percent of participants rated updating technology to improve patient experience as their top objective, followed by measuring improvement in patient care at 33 percent.

Maximizing reimbursement opportunities was selected by 13 percent of participants, while improving staff retention and satisfaction represented the views of 12 percent of respondents.

Based on the findings of what is the most important objective of health IT leaders this year, it is evident that the focus is on the patient experience and empowering patients to play a larger role in their own healthcare journey. It is no surprise that patient engagement is at the forefront of many health leaders’ minds, especially as the industry is looking to shift to a more value-based care model.
 

The Significance of Value-Based Care

Value-based care is the most significant topic in the healthcare industry this year, according to 45 percent of respondents. Artificial intelligence (26 percent) and cybersecurity (20 percent) both ranked high on the biggest topic list as well.

Another important finding was that 9 percent of the industry said that external industry disruptors, such as Google and Amazon, are a hot topic of focus in the industry. While this ranked lower than the aforementioned topics on the biggest topic list, the fact of the matter is that healthcare leaders are taking note of the big technology and retail companies that are continuing to create more competition in the industry.


Overcoming the Lack of Interoperability 

In an effort to gain true value in value-based care initiatives, 54 percent of respondents said that interoperability is the biggest operational burden for healthcare organizations.

Other operational burdens included rising overhead and staff costs (17 percent), financial reimbursements (15 percent) and electronic health record (EHR) burnout or reporting burden (14 percent).

Although healthcare’s lack of interoperability is a serious problem, more people are working toward finding a solution — especially after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed new rules to improve the interoperability of electronic health information.
 

The Many Health IT Hurdles 

Responses were split when assessing the most significant hurdle for healthcare IT teams this year.

Leveraging meaningful patient data came in at No. 1 with 32 percent of participants selecting it. Ineffective IT and EHR operations received 29 percent of votes, while protecting the privacy and security of patient information was selected by 20 percent. Managing IT staffing shortages and fatigue was chosen by 19 percent of participants.

It is clear that there are a lot of pressing issues for health IT teams and that different healthcare environments can impact the significance and presence of certain hurdles.
 

Other Areas of Importance in Healthcare

EHR implementation support remains a high priority for healthcare organizations. Of the respondents, 34 percent said they would be most interested in EHR or other application implementation support if they were to consider full or partial IT outsourcing.

Optimization work (27 percent) also represented a strong area of interest, along with legacy systems support (22 percent) and help desk/service desk support (17 percent).

Health organizations that choose not to outsource and lack IT support staff still have to optimize technology to meet healthcare regulations and consumer expectations.

And 63 percent of respondents feel “unprepared” or “very unprepared” to manage and execute effective IT operations based on the training offered at their organizations, which could be an opportunity to eliminate end-user error and maximize EHR system use.
 

Improving Practices to Accomplish Goals

Stoltenberg suggests that healthcare organizations should strategize the application of value-based care initiatives.

Organizations could assemble a cross-disciplinary team to assess their organizational development, define internal IT staff support capabilities and come up with goals and ways to achieve them.

Health systems that drive greater integration and analytics of IT systems and data across providers might put themselves in a better position to meet interoperability challenges head on.

It might also be a good idea to invest in innovative training approaches to that keep staff up-to-date and engaged.

“We’re now seeing a clearer picture of how different players across the care spectrum will be held accountable to drive more transparent, engaged patient care journeys, which in turn will help healthcare providers meet their organizational goals,” O’Connor said.

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