In the little more than 15 months between Peak 10's first and second rounds of research into healthcare information technology trends, a lot has changed. From evolving CIO roles and added emphasis on data analytics to increased cloud adoption and growing concerns over interoperability and security, HIT departments are being asked to rapidly adapt to the industry's shifting landscape.
Peak 10 - a national information technology infrastructure solutions provider with data centers and sales offices in 14 major metropolitan areas including Orlando - surveyed HIT decision makers from across the United States in March 2016 for the Second National IT Trends in Healthcare Study, which was released last month. After receiving online surveys from 157 respondents in more than 40 states, a series of in-depth, one-on-one qualitative phone interviews was conducted with a subset of the participants. Peak 10's latest report follows the company's research into current market conditions and HIT trends conducted in late 2014 that resulted in the inaugural study being published in the first quarter of 2015.
"We saw some big differences versus the last time," noted Christina Kyriazi, product marketing and analytics manager for Peak 10 and lead author and researcher for the report. "One of the biggest was the cloud adoption trend," she continued.
Kyriazi said there was signficant change from fourth quarter 2014 to first quarter 2016 in attitudes and adoption of colocated and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environments. While most respondents still heavily rely on in-house technology infrastructure delivery models, there was a marked increase in IaaS reliance. Across three categories - production, development and testing, and disaster recovery - each saw a decrease for in-house utilization and an increase in IaaS. Kyriazi said the shift resulted in a 50 percent increase in IaaS adoption and an average increase of 33 percent in Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption.
"There's been quite a few strides in public clouds, as well as hosted private clouds, in making them more secure so I think people have gained confidence," she said. Kyriazi added that many healthcare providers have incrementally tested cloud-based services and evaluated outcomes. With positive results, organizations have become more willing to take advantage of cloud-based efficiencies, although some level of unease still lingers.
No matter where it's stored, Kyriazi noted, "When you talk to healthcare professionals, the number one concern that comes up with data is security." In fact, she added, there were numerous comments from survey respondents that security and compliance worries have been responsible for more than a few sleepless nights with ransomware emerging as a particular concern. When asked to evaluate their own organization's security program, the average grade was a B-, with only 11 percent of respondents giving themselves an A. Not surprisingly, encryption services (28 percent), security assessments (25 percent), and advanced malware protection (25 percent) led the way in additional investments planned in the next 12-24 months.
"The number two issue, which kept coming up, was the interoperability of systems," she continued. "Fifty-three percent of the IT decision makers told us they use two or more EHR providers." And a full 25 percent of respondents are dealing with three or more providers. Kyriazi added the picture only gets more complicated when factoring in all the different devices and programs used by clinical providers and administrative personnel. "With all these disparate systems, they are having a hard time integrating them."
Kyriazi said another striking change is the evolution of the chief information officer within a hospital or health system. "The role of the healthcare CIO has changed drastically even in the last couple of years," she said. "All of a sudden, the CIO's role has shifted to a very strategic one."
Kyriazi pointed out helping an organization meet the triple aim of improved efficiencies, quality of care, and patient experience calls for a very different skill set from what was previously required of CIOs. That shift, she added, could be one of the drivers behind the growing trend in outsourcing some day-to-day functions to managed services providers. By turning to an outside company for IaaS and monitoring, Kyriazi said CIOs can "focus their IT teams to become more strategic to gain that competitive edge in the marketplace."
Part of that competitive advantage is effectively utilizing big data. The survey revealed 66 percent of respondents created new IT roles in the last 24 months. "The number one role that came up was analytics, followed closely by number two, security. I was expecting to see that be first," Kyriazi noted.
Considering increased complexity and demands, 67 percent of the organizations represented in the study anticipate increasing IT budgets from 2016 to 2018. Another 24 percent anticipated staying the same, 6 percent expected to decrease budgets, and 3 percent were unsure.
Other interesting points included 77 percent of respondents saying they currently have, or plan to implement, a telemedicine program, and 85 percent said they have a patient portal to help improve the patient experience and act as a competitive differentiator to drive business.
"The big picture is the healthcare industry is rapidly changing, and these IT leaders have to adapt to it," Kyriazi concluded.