As the long-term impact of the pandemic is emerging, so are the implications for healthcare IT support and delivery. CIOs at healthcare providers must stay abreast of these changes, which are, in some respects, an acceleration of existing trends. We believe these are the seven key areas healthcare CIOs must pay attention to during and after the pandemic.
1. Remote working fit for healthcare
The healthcare system relies on countless support staff, and a large proportion is now working remotely. Whether it’s approving insurance claims or onboarding new patients, essential healthcare functions are increasingly performed outside of the office setting – and outside of reliable technology safeguards.
CIOs need to do what’s necessary to ensure that their colleagues can confidently, securely, and smoothly work offsite. And that they can do so in the long run, as there’s no question that at least some home working arrangements will stick permanently.
It’s a game-changer in many ways, bringing to the fore new concerns and new IT pain points. Consider the ability of cloud vendors to deliver consistently, or the fit and resiliency of home broadband connections. Remote working is not going away, and the associated IT challenges aren’t temporary.
2. The shift to virtual care
During the pandemic, patients are often told to refrain from physically attending healthcare services where possible. By necessity, practitioners moved to virtual care, conducting patient interviews over video. That said, virtual care is not a COVID-19 novelty – remote healthcare appointments have become increasingly popular in the past few years for services like mental health, health education, remote monitor of vital signs, ECG, or blood pressure.
For CIOs, it means a readiness to deliver solutions that enable virtual healthcare, and that drives competitive advantage in virtual healthcare. At the most basic level, this involves telehealth with in-app video and chat. At a more advanced level, CIOs must consider, for example, how AI can drive faster, more accurate diagnostic processes.
3. A whole-person approach
When it comes to early and successful diagnosis of health problems, a “whole person” approach is critical. It is an approach that considers the full history and the story of a patient. In seeing the whole picture, healthcare providers deliver better advice as context help to identify the root cause of healthcare problems.
Context, however, requires integrated data. CIOs must structure healthcare IT to avoid data silos. It involves making data accessible, encouraging safe data sharing, and boosting internal data visibility. It is a tough but achievable challenge that also requires CIOs to reach out to provider networks to promote efficient data sharing.
4. Digital footprint over physical footprint
With virtual care and remote working becoming the norm, healthcare CIOs need to adjust their thinking away from a physical branch network and the associated provisioning logic. Yes, in many cases, patients will continue to prefer a personal touch, but between remote working and virtual care, there is an inevitable shift in focus.
So, CIOs need to reconfigure their thinking away from nuts and bolts and hub and branch networks. Where healthcare tech has not yet migrated to the cloud, now is the time to do so. Senior IT staff should also understand that healthcare IT is now much less about delivering computer terminals and networks and much more about delivering sophisticated technology that supports patient outcomes.
5. Beware of, and accommodate, cost-cutting
The US per capita spend on healthcare is significantly above the norm. It is leading to real pressure on healthcare reimbursements – which have been dropping. The pandemic will accelerate this trend. As a result, healthcare providers are taking a second look at expenditure, and predictably, information technology spend is in the firing line.
Of course, as every CIO knows, simply cutting IT expenditure leads to disaster in the long run. Yet there are ways to reduce costs without impacting service delivery, like shifting to cloud provisioning. Another is the automation of manual processes for roll-out, maintenance, and security patching. Innovative CIOs automate internal processes to reduce staff expenditure thereby enabling tech staff to focus on tasks that add value.
6. A different take on vendor selection
There’s a significant shift underway in how healthcare is delivered. CIOs are also aware of the equally dramatic shift in the tech landscape. Cloud ERP over on-premise, task automation over manual processes, etc. These shifts have implications for vendor selection. Vendors suited to the traditional way of delivering healthcare IT may no longer be tailored to post-pandemic IT delivery.
It poses a challenge for CIOs who are now facing a fresh round of vendor evaluation. Your managed services partner can, of course, point you in the right direction. Nonetheless, CIOs need to keep an eye on the shifting vendor landscape and risk management of a technology estate that obstructs cutting-edge healthcare.
On the one hand, there’s the need to adopt the technology that delivers novel healthcare outcomes. AI, automation, and personalized healthcare – to name just a few. However, CIOs should also take a view on the agility and resiliency of essential IT services. In other words, can your vendors be trusted to deliver in a changing technology landscape?
7. New security and compliance risks
Finally, the disruptive effects of the pandemic are shifting the information security and compliance landscape. Remote workers and remote healthcare provisioning lead to a growing number of endpoints – both known and unknown. It also implies the usage of unvetted networks.
It is a big challenge for CIOs that have to adhere to laws in a highly regulated sector. Compliance laws are in flux as regulators catch up with mass home working, CIOs should monitor how government bodies respond. Tech leaders also need to re-adjust their approach to security to account for the realities of remote working.
A new reality – and a fresh way of executing healthcare IT
Tech leaders are familiar with change – it is the only constant in the world of technology, but change comes in fits and starts. It is clear that we are currently experiencing a period of significant and rapid change. Change provides opportunity and healthcare CIOs that adopt cutting-edge tech during this period of change stand to deliver healthcare IT that delivers better patient and better provider outcomes.
It may be finally taking a step towards an integrated data solution or adopting automation to deliver endpoint security. Irrespective of the final approach, CIOs in healthcare need to be aware of how, why, and where the pandemic has shifted the healthcare technology landscape – and act accordingly.