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2024: Charting The Future For Healthcare CIO



In 2024, healthcare CIOs will proactively tackle diverse priorities shaped by the evolving technological landscapes, cybersecurity challenges, and the drive for operational efficiencies. The industry faces a significant 7.0% year-on-year medical cost trend, outpacing the 5.5% and 6.0% trends of 2022 and 2023, respectively. Rising treatment costs, fueled by high inflation, escalating wages, and other expenses, exert immense pressure on the healthcare sector. Clinical workforce shortages further intensify this pressure.

Healthcare CIOs must focus on the following priorities to align with the broader technology trends and the expanding role of IT in healthcare operations.


Redefine CIO Role

The CIO must lead the organization's digital transformation and strategy, adopting new digital technologies, enhancing customer engagement, advancing data analytics, and designing new business models. They should capitalize on the opportunities to improve patient experiences, clinical outcomes, and operational efficiencies. These initiatives require the CIO to create a robust IT infrastructure that seamlessly integrates with the entire technology portfolio.

I firmly believe that CIOs must lead in digital to stay relevant. In 2018, I updated my title to reflect digital, a trend gaining traction today. Digital health, increasingly integrated into all healthcare aspects, cannot operate in a silo separate from IT. Consequently, many organizations and CIOs are merging the CDO and CIO roles into a single CDIO position.

Tanya Townsend, Stanford Children's Hospital's Chief Information and Digital Officer, agrees with this trend of redefining digital in the organization. She said she is "strategically focusing on A/I and RPA, digital front door and access, advancing digital health and telemedicine, health equity and patient experience, workday, rev cycle automation, advancing analytics, clinician efficiency… to name a few. And, of course, continue to stay on top of employee retention and engagement: remote/virtual work, etc".


Cannot Leave Out AI

AI will be everywhere in 2024, with many advancements from technology companies regularly making new announcements. Healthcare adoption for AI will start with automation, and ambient listening will be a hit to improve efficiencies. We have an executive order setting new healthcare AI standards that are in the works and significant healthcare AI advancements by the major tech companies.


The healthcare industry is optimistic about AI's impact, yet it harbors concerns about the technology's safety and security. Testing and validating AI will require time as the technology learns and measures security requirements.


New IT Structure

Some CIOs eliminate their IT teams by choosing outsourcing and utilizing managed services. Owensboro Health and ProHealth Care are examples of two healthcare providers that have decided to transfer their IT employees to Optum as part of a larger outsourcing deal that includes revenue cycle management and other technical functions.


Other CIOs may only look to outsource core functions like the help desk, network infrastructure, and IT security. Care New England outsourced some IT employees to health IT provider Kyndryl. Under the agreement, employees joined Kyndryl's team to provide technical services to the health system.


In 2024, Healthcare CIOs face the challenging decision of whether to outsource certain IT functions to cut operating costs, as IT is typically among the most expensive departments in an organization. Healthcare CIOs must decide whether outsourcing IT services can provide better quality at a lower cost than in-house options. Their decision centers on evaluating the cost-effectiveness and quality improvement potential of outsourcing.


Security

In a recent report by SecureWorks, ransomware remains the primary threat to organizations due to its widespread disruption and prevalence. The time between initial access and ransomware payload delivery has drastically reduced to a median of just 24 hours. 2023 is potentially shaping up to be the most active year for ransomware attacks.


CIOs are responsible for developing and implementing comprehensive cybersecurity strategies to protect sensitive patient data and maintain uninterrupted healthcare services. They balance innovative technology adoption with solid security measures, responding to immediate threats and managing risks proactively. Zafar Chaudry, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Seattle's Children's Hospital agrees and said his focus in 2024 is "harnessing the power of AI, analytics, and automation combined with prioritizing cybersecurity and data privacy."


Healthcare CIOs face a challenging 2024, tasked with addressing priorities such as rebranding the CIO department, aligning IT departments, keeping pace with AI advancements, and securing their organizations.

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