What are the most concerning trends in health IT? 10 execs weigh in

The pandemic accelerated many trends in healthcare, including telehealth, artificial intelligence and the use of the cloud.

However, the race to digitize hospital operations so quickly has exposed some areas of weakness.

Here is what nine hospital executives said the most concerning trends in health IT are:

Lisa Stump. Senior Vice President and CIO at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health: The rise in frequency of cyber threats on healthcare is a top concern that will challenge us for the foreseeable future. With global competition for talent enabled by remote work, talent acquisition, retention and engagement is also a top concern and presents an opportunity for us to remodel the work environment.

Nick Patel, MD. Chief Digital Officer of Prisma Health (Greenville, S.C.): The most concerning trend in health IT is the massive boom in healthcare startups with unrealistic evaluations. [Special purpose acquisition companies] are throwing enormous amounts of money into healthcare technology companies. In addition, there was significant merger and acquisition action last year, and the trend continues. That can be good or bad for health systems. The good part of it is that it helps consolidate tools under one umbrella, but the bad is that companies take too long to unify their platforms and enhance their offering. The promise often falls flat. Sadly, we also see startups adopt "EHR"-level pricing models that just don't make sense. Lastly, healthcare systems have to do extra due diligence before partnering with startups, taking into account their longevity (survivability) and deliverable roadmap. The healthcare technology bubble is forming — be cautious.

Donna Roach. CIO of University of Utah Health (Salt Lake City): At the top of our concern list is the increasing cybersecurity threats that put our patient data at risk. I would also say it's how to become an agile organization in the midst of maintaining and providing a high level of service to our organization. This involves invoking a bi-modal approach of simplicity, stability and effectiveness, while an agile approach would operate as innovative and flexible.

Tom Barnett. Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care (Memphis, Tenn.): The trend that concerns me the most is the evolving and increasingly sophisticated types of cyberattacks. This combined with the increased use of digital and consumer technologies to deliver telehealth creates a more complicated environment to protect.

Bruce Darrow, MD, PhD. Senior Vice president of Information Technology, Deputy CIO and Chief Medical Information Officer of Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): I have concerns about unclear and un-nuanced mandates requiring sharing of health information with patients and other organizations. I am a strong advocate for making health information available and sharing it externally. But under current regulations, it is too easy to share test results with patients that they might choose not to see before their doctor does (such as the routine chest X-ray with the unexpected large tumor) or at all (such as the gender of their unborn child). Most health information software systems have not yet matured to the point where they can offer our patients an easy way for them to self-select what they do and don’t see, and what they do and don't share — and to give them the flexibility to manage and change these settings as they please.

Joel Klein. Senior Vice President and CIO of University of Maryland Medical System (Baltimore): In my opinion, by far, the biggest and fastest-changing concern we face in healthcare is the threat of ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals and nation-states are distracting the industry and trying to pull us away from our core mission of caring for patients. Whether it’s more vigorous, recovery-driven enforcement, providing forums for the free exchange of incident details so we can learn from them, managing the consequences of cryptocurrencies on an international scale, strengthening the cyber insurance market or establishing cyber practices that define a liability safe harbor, healthcare needs more help to avoid further driving up the cost of care.

Zafar Chaudry, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Digital and Information Officer of Seattle Children's: The pandemic has fueled the need to leverage data and advanced predictive analytics, as well as the expanded use of artificial intelligence applications and machine learning applied to assist in hospital operations and agile supply chains. Virtual care will continue to expand (including policy changes around reimbursement, licensing and accessibility). There will be a continued effort around patient consumerization, an expanded effort on better integration between existing technology platforms, and strategies to address cybersecurity and privacy concerns.

R. Hal Baker, MD. Chief Digital and Information Officer of WellSpan Health (York, Pa.): The cognitive load for clinicians using the EHR has grown over time. Providers often feel saddled with managing gene codes, such as CPT-2 codes, hierarchical condition category codes with a broadening range of data as well as increased interoperability. The time left to be fully present with the patient has grown shorter as the number of data fields needing completion and attention has increased. The emergence of ambient voice solutions is starting to return time, attention and frankly, a joy to the practice of medicine and may be one of the antidotes to burnout.

Karen Murphy, PhD, RN. Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of Geisinger (Danville, Pa.): The use of telehealth and remote monitoring grew exponentially during the pandemic and is here to stay. Virtual care has the potential to make better health easier for so many people, so it's critical that our communities can access this type of care in an equitable way. Geisinger serves a largely rural population. We are working to be sure that our infrastructure, including broadband internet service, will provide access to virtual care for all of our patients regardless of where they reside.

Rick Keller. Senior Vice President and CIO of Ardent Health Services (Nashville, Tenn.): In the current environment in healthcare IT, one of our main concerns is not new but ever more threatening: the increase of ransomware attacks and the attack on [internet-of-things] medical devices which all want/need access to our networks. We are taking a layered defense approach with tools like Cisco [identity services engine], network segmentation and [managed detection and response]/[endpoint detection and response] monitoring. In addition, implementing an air gap backup solution in the event of a successful attack.


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