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AI, machine learning top health CIO priorities in 2023, survey finds

By Emily Olsen for Healthcare Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Thirty-two percent of hospital chief information officers said artificial intelligence and machine learning are the top health IT priorities this year, a significant jump from 2022 when they captured only 6% of votes, according to an annual survey from Stoltenberg Consulting.
  • Other top priorities for information technology executives were cybersecurity and interoperability, which tied for second place with 16% of votes. Digital front doors to healthcare services, patient engagement tools, cloud technology, and data analytics and business intelligence were also hot topics for health IT leaders. 
  • The industry has historically been slow to adopt new technologies, as providers have remained wary of patient safety and security concerns, the report said. But with provider burnout challenging hospital operations and more EHRs integrating generative AI, CIOs predicted “solid movement” in the space within the next two years. 

Dive Insight:

High labor expenses pummeled hospital margins last year, and many facilities continue to struggle financially even as pressure lifts for some providers. 

Those financial challenges, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, paved the way for AI and virtual care adoption, which could lessen some of the resource strain, the survey said. However, IT teams face a “heavy operational burden” to implement, support and improve new tools.

AI dominates other health IT hot topics

Top health IT priorities according to CIOs, by percentage

Meanwhile, healthcare IT workers are facing their own workforce challenges. Forty-four percent of CIOs said retaining and budgeting for qualified IT resources was their greatest operational challenge. 

Many organizations are looking at new staffing models to keep up with demand, the survey found. Thirty-six percent of respondents said flexible IT staffing — that could be ramped up or down depending on project needs — was a top area where CIOs wanted more support. 

Talent shortages top IT operational challenges

Biggest operational challenges related to IT according to healthcare CIOs, by percentage

Financial pressures are also pushing health IT executives to look for cost-cutting strategies. More than half of CIO respondents said their top IT-related financial goal in 2023 was getting the most out of existing IT infrastructure, while 28% said their priorities are driving down support costs.

As leaders prioritize their existing technology, budgets are focused on upkeep and optimization of their electronic health records, with 28% saying new version upgrades or system alignment like consolidation is the top area for IT investments this year.

But cybersecurity is still a key area for purchases, as increasingly large healthcare data breaches saddle health systems with high costs and jeopardize patient safety. Twenty-four percent of respondents said cybersecurity, privacy and risk management measures were top priorities for IT investments. 

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