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Organizations Upping Pace of Healthcare Big Data, AI Investments

More than three-quarters of healthcare C-suite executives are increasing their pace of investment in healthcare big data and artificial intelligence, according to a recent survey by NewVantage Partners.

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By Fred Donovan

- More than three-quarters of healthcare C-suite executives are increasing their pace of investment in healthcare big data and artificial intelligence (AI), according to a recent survey by NewVantage Partners.

Around 79 percent of senior healthcare executives said they have a greater urgency for investing in big data and AI initiatives.

For the survey, NewVantage Partners polled C-suite executives at 65 industry leading firms in a variety of industries, including healthcare, financial services, insurance, and media. The 2019 survey saw a doubling of participation from healthcare senior executives.

Healthcare and life sciences respondents included senior executives from Aetna, Alexion, Astellas, Astra Zeneca, Cigna, CVS Health, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Parexel, Partners Healthcare, Sanofi, and United Health.

Healthcare big data and AI investments are motivated positively by the need for business transformation and increased agility and negatively by fear of competition and disruptive forces.

Around 57 percent of senior healthcare executives said they were successful at competing on data and analytics.

At the same time, only 28.6 percent of senior healthcare executive said they were investing in blockchain technology.

Only 42.9 percent of senior healthcare executives said their organization has a single point of accountability for data.

Across industries, the NewVantage Partners survey found that 92 percent of C-suite executives are increasing their pace of big data and AI investment, and 62 percent are already seeing measurable results from the investment in these technologies.

More than half of surveyed companies are spending over $50 million on big data and AI, and 21 percent are spending over $500 million on them.

On the other hand, only 31 percent of respondents said they had a data-driven organization and even fewer said they had a data culture.

Three-quarters of respondents across industries said that business adoption of big data and AI initiative is a challenge for their companies. Executives cited multiple factors for the challenge, most stemming from corporate cultural challenges.

“This issue, and the low percentage of companies that have achieved data-driven organizations and cultures, suggests the need for a new focus. Respondents clearly say that technology isn’t the problem—people and (to a lesser extent) processes are,” wrote NewVantage Partners CEO Randy Bean and Fellow Tom Davenport in their foreword to the survey results.

“Yet we would guess with high confidence that the great majority of spending on big data and AI goes for technology and its development. We hear little about initiatives devoted to changing human attitudes and behaviors around data. Unless the focus shifts to these types of activities, we are likely to see the same problem areas in the future that we’ve observed year after year in this survey,” they added.

“Respondents clearly say that technology isn’t the problem—people and (to a lesser extent) processes are.”

The survey found that 68 percent of organizations had chief data officers. Nearly half of executives reported that the chief data officer has primary responsibility for data within their organization, but more than one-quarter said there is no single point of accountability for data. Fewer than half said that their chief data officer has primary responsibility for data.

Around 38 percent of respondents judged that an effective chief digital officer must be a change agent, while 32 percent judged that he or she should be a company veteran who understands the culture and knows how to “work the organization.”

A third of firms judged that the chief digital officer should embody different characteristics: a line of business executive, data scientist, or technology executive. One chief data officer told the researchers, “we are expected to be all of the above.”

“Companies are struggling to make the chief data officer role work in the context of a changing time where data is becoming an asset and firms must be agile and data-driven to compete. It should not be surprising that there is uncertainty as to what level in the organization that the CDO position should sit, or even whether the role should exist—a significant 17.5% say that it is transitional or unnecessary and should not exist long term,” the NewVantage Partners’ report on the survey noted.

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