Health system CEOs' tech wishlist

Technology investment will be critical in the next 12 months for hospitals to redesign healthcare delivery. Most health systems are prioritizing IT and digital technology spend, but what specifically is on the CEO's mind for next year?

Based on interviews with health system presidents and CEOs, here is the technology wishlist for the next three years:

1. Seamless care coordination applications. John Couris, CEO of Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital, said health systems will want to invest in developing robust ecosystems of care and building pathways for affordable and efficient access to care.

"We will need to deploy new technology and leverage innovative approaches to making this happen," Mr. Couris told Becker's. "At the same time, we must effectively coordinate all of the care patients receive so that they move through the system without friction, can get the care they need promptly, and where potential health concerns are addressed early, leading to improved outcomes."

Amy Perry, president of Banner Health in Phoenix, told Becker's successful health systems will build integrated care delivery networks beyond acute care to fill in gaps and make healthcare more accessible and affordable.

"Coverage, or premium-based revenue, allows health systems to prioritize health outcomes and quality of life," she said. "All of this must be fueled and integrated by smart application of emerging technology. Health systems must accelerate their ability to transform."

2. Drivers of elite patient experience. Nancy Howell Agee, CEO of Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va., sees successful health systems being hyer-focused on the patient journey, prioritizing easy access to care and a great experience. Digital technology has emerged to meet those needs and will become even more sophisticated over the next few years.

"We will obsessively engage with patients and deliver care that goes beyond medical expertise and includes comfortable environments," Ms. Agee told Becker's. "We'll eliminate wait times and use technology that streamlines processes. As healthcare leaders, innovation is in the DNA of every one of us. A future in which care is convenient, easy to access, technologically enhanced and addresses patients' emotional and practical needs [is ahead]."

Peter Banko, division president of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, told Becker's the patient will be the "ultimate consumer" in the coming years and health systems need "uber friendly technology" for patients to stay competitive.

"Consumers will access at their fingertips information, care processes, best practices, research, risks, benefits, costs and outcomes, to further their own understanding and ability to impact care," said Mr. Banko. "More technology and more information will drive different collaborative care models that are consistent and regularized, creating far better processes, hand-ffs and outcomes as well as greater opportunities for self-diagnosis and self-care."

Lynne Fiscus, MD, president and CEO of UNC Physicians Network in Durham, N.C., told Becker's health systems desire more customization for consumer segments in the future.

"As our patients sort themselves into those who are early and frequent adopters of technology, the more traditional patients and those skeptical of our services, the 'one size fits all' delivery will no longer serve our patient needs," she said. "Meeting patients where they are when and how they want to interact with us as a health system will be imperative for health systems to continue to be relevant amidst the consumer-focused new market entrants."

3. Automation everywhere. Mark Behl, president and CEO of NorthBay Health in Fairfield, Calif., is prioritizing automation to become more efficient and support the workforce. He said healthcare is at an inflection point, and leaders are searching for "imagination, bold ideas and the courage to think differently" in the next few years to redesign the healthcare system.

"We should be asking our systems: what should we look like in 20-30 years? Because only then do we start building the right foundation to be successful in this next frontier," Mr. Behl told Becker's. "If we look that far into the future, how many of our legacy workflows will be automated, and if so, shouldn't we be pursuing automation with much greater intensity?"

Automation is also at the top of the list for Michael Young, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Temple University Health System.

"We're going to see a lot more automation: mobile-friendly patient scheduling and check-in, more rapid triage and diagnosis of illness, real-time monitoring of treatment adherence, all of this will improve access, quality, and efficiency, leading to better health and business outcomes," he told Becker's.

4. Precision medicine capabilities. Hospital executives must plan today for the "hospital of the future," said David Verinder, president and CEO of Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System, which will include more digital capabilities and efficient operating systems.

Sarasota Memorial has invested $1 billion in the last three years in new facilities including a new hospital, cancer centers and a behavioral health hospital, and is planning more technology investments that are "expandable and flexible" to accommodate for new innovations affecting patient care.

"It's not just about bricks and mortar. In the coming years, health systems must integrate not only the latest medical equipment and robust clinical programs for patients," Mr. Verinder told Becker's. "They also must harness the power of AI and innovative digital health advances to help predict, diagnose and treat diseases, add greater personalization and precision to medicine, expand patients' access to comprehensive care, and improve efficiencies within the workforce."

That's certainly easier said than done. But AI-driven data platforms and EHR upgrades are beginning to make this future a reality. Patrick Frias, MD, president and CEO of Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, predicts more technology and data-driven decision-making in clinical care will become standard for the best institutions.

"I think you will see a greater focus on precision medicine and technological innovation [in the next three years]," said Dr. Frias. "Over the next few years, health systems may turn more to genomic medicine to diagnose disease and develop treatment plans. At Rady Children's, we've launched an initiative to supplement traditional newborn screening with rapid whole genome sequencing in order to identify genetic diseases in newborns before they become ill."

5. AI-driven technology to support the workforce. Staffing shortages are projected to continue over the next 12 months and beyond, according to Fitch. Health system CEOs want technology platforms driven by artificial intelligence to support their clinical and non-clinical teams as the need for care grows.

"Staffing shortages are not new by any means, however, they have been exacerbated by growing demand for healthcare availability largely driven by an aging population and an increasing need for healthcare at all levels," Joseph Webb, CEO of Nashville General Hospital, told Becker's. "In the presence of extreme workforce challenges and shortages, AI will continue to gain momentum in providing more aspects of healthcare delivery as an alternative to physical bodies."

6. Health equity and population health boosters. Hospitals and health systems refocused on closing the gaps in health disparities and delivering customized population health solutions to their communities during the pandemic. There is huge momentum to continue and grow these efforts as technology makes them easier and more affordable.

Jill Hoggard Green, PhD, RN, president and CEO of The Queen's Health System in Honolulu, sees AI technologies revolutionizing healthcare and moving the needle with health equity.

"At The Queen's Health System, we are evaluating data as a strategic asset so we can better understand the populations we serve and design the models of care that are best for them," she told Becker's. "This will be especially important for reducing health disparities, improving health outcomes for those who are most vulnerable, and reducing the overall cost of care so it remains affordable for everyone."


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