Like circus performers juggling flaming torches, healthcare IT professionals must manage multiple high-priority tasks simultaneously: making sure their organizations serve patients' health, meeting government mandates, and operating at maximum efficiency.
Each year brings old and new challenges. In 2014, providers and payers face ICD-10's deadline, the looming arrival of Meaningful Use 2, and ongoing enforcement of HIPAA throughout the provider chain. At the same time, healthcare evolves toward volume-based payments that demand patient engagement and population health programs, all of which require tight integration between technology and its users.
Rather than see these times as challenging, many healthcare CIOs see them as filled with opportunities. They're partnering with doctors, nurses, administrators, and other members of the healthcare and technology ecosystem not only to find computerized systems to replace paper-based workflows, but to replace outdated processes with more-efficient user- and patient-friendly procedures.
When EY (Ernst & Young) worked with one hospital, a radiologist wanted the new EHR to replicate a clunky, multi-step paper process, said Bill Fera, principal at the professional services organization. "We made the process of ordering a radiology examination completely intuitive and somewhat educational," he said in an interview. "These are big opportunities to rewrite broken processes and a lot of times people don't take advantage of that."
ICD-10, margin pressure, and the move to personalized care are increasing demand for analytics and big data. This gives IT the chance to change processes from old-time data analysts taking users' requests to enabling employees to do their own research. This change frees up IT staff to move away from data analytics and focus on business- and technology-oriented tasks, liberating IT budgets for innovation and satisfying business users' demands. Working with individual departments that pursue research grants for technology-based exploration into areas such as 3D or analytics, IT also increases its value.
As leaders, CIOs set the tone for how an organization sees the entire IT department. CIOs who help employees integrate personal health devices such as FitBits, who focus on mobile, who use cloud and collaborative tools to share data, and who simplify -- not complicate -- processes, are seen as partners, several CIOs said.
We've rounded up 20 issues healthcare CIOs must juggle. Which ones top your list? What would you add -- or leave off? Let us know in the comments section.
Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio
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