Why the pandemic-era acceleration of health tech isn't going away

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the need for new healthcare technology adoption at hospitals and health systems, and CIOs predict that this accelerated pace is likely to continue as organizations look for ways to optimize workflows, operations and increase efficiency.  

"The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how healthcare was provided and, in many respects, accelerated care beyond the walls of a hospital or clinic, magnifying the immense need for telehealth medicine and services," Raymond Lowe, senior vice president and CIO of Commerce, Calif.-based AltaMed, told Becker's.

During the pandemic, hospitals and health systems had to innovate and digitize their end-to-end operations rapidly in order to get care to patients at a time when many people could not leave their homes. But, although the pandemic is over, the pressure on the sector to continue to innovate and develop better technologies hasn't slowed, according to CIOs. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the adoption and advancement of digital health technologies, and many of the changes brought about during this time are likely to have a lasting impact," Zafar Chaudry, MD, senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children's, told Becker's

With the industry putting more emphasis on "data-driven healthcare," according to Dr. Chaudry, health tech acceleration continues to gain prominence. 

Michael Ward, CIO of Maryville, Ill.-based Anderson Healthcare, attributed the continued acceleration to the financial pressures the healthcare industry is facing. 

"I believe the need for tech will continue for several years. I believe there will be considerable pressure put on the revenue cycle process to reduce the amount of money that is stuck in these all too often convoluted payer processes," Mr. Ward told Becker's

B.J. Moore, CIO and executive vice president of real estate operations and strategy for Renton, Wash.-based Providence, sees efficiency as the greatest force behind health tech's continued growth.

"The growth will continue to be accelerated," Mr. Moore said. "This is due to the amount of technical debt, how far behind healthcare is compared to other verticals, and the emergence of generative AI and the opportunities to create efficiencies and improved health outcomes for our patients."

Dr. Chaudry agreed, citing AI and machine learning as a potential accelerator for health tech. 

"AI and machine learning in healthcare will see significant potential acceleration assisting in tasks such as medical imaging analysis, drug discovery, disease diagnosis, and treatment planning," Dr. Chaudry said. "AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants will enhance patient engagement and provide personalized health recommendations."

According to Siggy Tetteh, vice president and CIO of Houston Healthcare, investments in health technology are also on the rise, showing the prominence of the industry even after COVID's influence. 

"In 2021, venture capital funding for health tech reached $23.8 billion, which is a significant increase from the previous year," he told Becker's. "This investment is being driven by the growing demand for digital health solutions and the belief that these solutions have the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of care."


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