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Upgrading Health IT Infrastructure Top Challenge for Healthcare

Upgrading health IT infrastructure was cited as among the top challenges facing healthcare executives in 2019.

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Source: Getty Images

By Fred Donovan

- Upgrading health IT infrastructure was cited as among the top challenges facing healthcare executives in 2019.

On behalf of SAP, Porter Research polled 100 healthcare CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs from acute care hospitals and integrated delivery networks with more than 300 beds about the top challenges facing health systems this year.

Asked to identify their top health system challenge, 62 percent of respondents identified declining reimbursement, 53 percent cited patient experience, 48 percent said maintaining and upgrading IT infrastructure, 46 percent said cybersecurity, a similar percentage cited difficulty finding and retaining qualified staff, 42 percent said compliance with government mandates, 34 percent cited implementing alternative payment models, 31 percent cited consolidation across health systems, provider groups, and payers, 27 percent said digital patient engagement, 20 percent said increasing drug costs, 17 percent cited price transparency, and 16 percent named the opioid crisis.

The survey found that health systems plan to focus on addressing cost pressures stemming from declining reimbursements and improving the patient experience.

Health execs said that the key initiatives needed to reduce costs and improve patient experience include strengthening operational efficiencies, enabling interoperability, increasing visibility into data, and improving patient engagement.

The foundation for processes to be more efficient was interoperability, the survey found.

“The power of interoperability and analytics lays the foundation for organizations to use tools of the future such as artificial intelligence (AI). AI holds the power and promise to further automate, refine, and improve healthcare operational processes and clinical workflows and perhaps lead to better patient care, quality outcomes, satisfaction, and engagement,” the report observed.

Healthcare organizations are investing in solutions to support initiatives that directly impact the patient experience and the bottom line: enterprise resource planning, supply chain, human resource management, and revenue cycle.

“Health system executives are purposefully prioritizing their next technology investments to continue the journey to a better patient experience and lower costs for all,” said SAP Healthcare Global Head Werner Eberhardt.

“These findings make clear their top requirements, threats and challenges — information that the healthcare technology space as a whole should heed, as we play essential roles in helping healthcare systems bend the cost curve and improve patient outcomes,” he added.

The report recommended that healthcare execs take the following steps to reduce costs and improve patient experience: evaluate technology gaps, understand data silos and workflow barriers, develop best-practice processes, visualize and quantify the patient experience, establish the ideal patient experience, and define a path to better patient engagement.

“Patient engagement is a top priority for us. I call it patient-centric knowledge strategies. That means we are putting patients first, incorporating patient input, and developing specific technological tools that will benefit a patient inside and outside of the organization. Each patient is your new CEO,” said one survey respondent.

Integration and visibility of clinical and financial data were identified as having a significant impact on reducing costs or increasing revenue. “The key area of deficiency is around getting specific data within data silos that will allow us to have complete data and turn that into value. A lot of organizations do not focus on data mining. Data mining with legacy systems can become an issue because organizations cannot efficiently and accurately obtain information. The right technology can help us solve this,” commented another respondent.

Data visibility across a healthcare enterprise helps to turn data into intelligence, thereby reducing costs. By having this visibility, respondents said that the healthcare system will improve resource capacity and productivity and reduce scheduling bottlenecks.

“Executives are evaluating the right technology solutions to support these objectives. We are seeing health system leaders desire to work with vendors to fill technology gaps, integrate existing clinical and financial solutions, and prioritize departments that deliver a true return on investment and improve the patient experience,” concluded Porter Research CEO Cynthia Porter.

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