A CIO looks back on 2023, and offers a forecast for 2024

By Mike Restuccia for Healthcare IT News

It’s that time of year, to reflect again on the past and pontificate about what the future may hold for the healthcare information technology community.

For the first time in several years, I’m promoting a more positive, albeit cautious, message. Like the “revenge travel” explosion seen as individuals broke free from the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations have also experienced an accumulated demand for IT related project activity – now coined “payback projects.”

In many instances, these projects were initially suspended so that IT teams could focus on supporting pandemic activities such as electronic health record modifications, enabling mobile testing centers and creating unique reporting and dashboard requirements.

Today’s tsunami of project and service request activity – combined with many healthcare organizations’ trimming of operational expenses – has led to an ever-increasing backlog of project-related initiatives.

Although IT teams are feverishly working to activate projects in as rapid a time frame as possible, like the travel industry, there is an ever-increasing level of frustration among users awaiting efforts to be expended on their now mission-critical projects.

So you may be thinking: Where is the cautious positivity given the present situation?

First and foremost, the current moment reinforces the critical importance of the IT teams within each healthcare organization. Operational users have recognized that, to significantly advance their patient care, as well as gain administrative and operational efficiencies, IT enablement and alignment between IT teams and operations is required.

Secondly, organizations have begun to recognize that just because a request is submitted, that does not necessarily mean it’s appropriate to expend efforts on that request. As a result, organizations have become much more diligent in identifying anticipated benefits and holding those requesting users accountable for the anticipated results.

This sounds very business-like, doesn’t it? For those projects that are selected to proceed, a prioritization methodology may be used to address the most critical needs first.

Finally, this project prioritization process reflects back to the organization that there is a limited source of resources available to provide support. This discipline is a critical success factor for organizations to succeed in the ever-changing healthcare environment, where reimbursement will continue to remain relatively steady while overall costs tend to escalate.

For many, the past year has been one of stabilization as organizations have emerged from the shadows of COVID-19. This newly found footing will now serve as the foundation for the rebirth of innovative and technological advances within our organizations.

The focus on clinician efficiency through artificial intelligence tools such as ambient listening, patient chart summaries and automatic email responses are initial efforts to pursue. 

Further promise will be realized by integrating discrete genomic results into the EHR to further advance genomic decision support efforts and ensuring that the most appropriate protocol is prescribed. 

Also, working with operational leaders to mine the rich data that resides within our systems and develop actionable analytics will further drive advances in patient care and operations.

For the past several years, the healthcare industry has managed the many challenges of the pandemic gut-punch. Through dedication, persistence – and at times a little luck – our organizations are now poised to elevate to new heights.

There is more technology than ever to support these endeavors. As always, it will be the partnership between operations and the IT teams that will make all the difference. This partnership has historically guided organizations through turbulent times and to higher heights and is the reason why I continue to be so optimistic about the future.

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