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Top 5 Health IT Infrastructure Trends Heading into 2017

Black Book's latest survey rounds up the top health IT trends expected to continue on through 2017 as organizations look to improve their health IT infrastructures.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Cloud migration, staffing challenges, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) are among the top healthcare technology trends outlined in Black Book’s Q4 healthcare C-suite poll. 

Healthcare IT trends for 2017

According to the survey, recent and possible policy changes in the near future have created a demand for certain technology, while some advanced, but not mission-critical, software may be put on hold until healthcare organizations are more certain of 2017 government funding.

The Black Book survey found that 82 percent of CIOs, 91 percent of CFOs, and 83 percent of CEOs agree that their health IT infrastructure needs sorting out in order to prepare for possible future deployments.

HITInfrastructure.com takes a look at five of the near-term trends that are expected to continue into the first half of 2017.

Technology budgets stagnate, purchases through Q2 largely will be based on current business need.

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The survey indicates that IT budgets are unlikely to increase for most organizations in 2017, so IT decision-makers can only implement technology that is critical for operations.

“Increase the assessment of less expensive options and cloud applications, significantly hire in more IT consultant engagements for guidance and new strategic planning, and implement needed payment related enhancements or outsourcing,” survey authors advise.

The cost savings cloud service models offer healthcare organizations could reduce infrastructure IT deployments, giving organizations a cheaper and more modern infrastructure.

Hype around the cloud quiets down as it becomes the primary way to build enterprise architecture.

Cloud computing is becoming a new standard for health IT infrastructure as the technology passes from a status as new and untested to tried and true.

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“Now a robust and mature platform, cloud technologies are driving advancements and creating new paradigms in healthcare,” said survey authors. “As the digital transformation of healthcare picks up in 2017, CIOs will be making the cloud the de facto model for new technology platforms and solutions, with the exception of inpatient EHR.”

The use of cloud computing in healthcare has tripled since 2014 because of the many different ways organizations are able to leverage the technology.

“Cloud solutions are an extension of a healthcare organization’s communications infrastructure and connecting to the cloud is as mission critical as the platform itself,” a recent HIMSS survey stated. “Connectivity should easily ‘scale up,’ as more applications are moved to the cloud or more compute cycles are accessed for analytics.”

The increased interest in the healthcare cloud has inspired vendors to increase their support for business associate agreements (BAA) as well as third-party privacy and security assessments.

Renewed and upgraded ERP systems swing back into importance, now for value-based care costing.

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Black Book’s survey found that most healthcare organizations are underinvested in ERPs, with most avoiding full implementations, upgrades, and enhancements over the past three years.

The rate of ERP solution adoption was generally affected by limited understanding among C-level executives of their supply chain’s impact or complexity until value-based care came into the picture. Value-based care emphasizes accountability to measure cost against outcome, which makes an ERP system important for measuring the effectiveness and value of the many IT solutions organizations have likely implemented.

Survey authors suggest organizations currently lacking ERP solutions to look into cloud-based ERP solutions in the new year to incorporate into their health IT infrastructures.

Skilled hospital tech staff recruitment is even more challenging.

As as result of the increase in advanced technology, healthcare organizations are having trouble maintaining IT staff. The high demand and limited number of staff available for each different infrastructure technology deployments challenge healthcare organizations to make competitive offers compared to other industries with higher IT budgets.  

The shortage of IT professionals could halt the implementation process for new infrastructure technology. Big data analytics is growing rapidly across the healthcare industry, and healthcare organizations are constantly seeking the right qualified professionals to monitor these solutions.

The survey reported that CIOs are reaching out to technology recruiters and are expected to make competitive salary offers 50 percent greater than in 2016 in order to attract the top talent with analytics, big data, security and/or cloud experience in healthcare specifically.

Electronic data warehouses (EDW) move to the top of short term priorities.

The survey reported that most healthcare organizations are not capturing the information they need for big data analytics and population health management because they lack the storage space.

On-premise servers are costly to maintain and take up physical space. The amount of space required to hold the influx of healthcare data in 2017 will be extremely expensive to host completely on-premise, the reason behind many organizations opting for hybrid storage solutions. Cloud storage offers scalability as a much lower rate than it takes to build on-premise servers.

The survey found that 94 percent of provider organizations are underutilizing the potential power of analytics because their current solution is unable to process and organize structured and unstructured data.

Most organizations polled have plans to address their organizational data warehousing and storage issues in the earliest part of 2017 by structuring their databases in efficient ways to store patient data that has them missing opportunities to improve care and reduce costs.

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