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

It’s that time of year to reflect again on the past and pontificate on what the future holds for the health information technology community.

For the first time in several years, I am promoting a more positive, albeit cautious, message. Much like the explosion of “revenge travel” that occurred as people broke free from the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations have also experienced pent-up demand for IT-related project activities, now called “investment recovery projects”.

In many cases, these projects were initially put on hold so 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.

The current tsunami of project and service request activity, combined with many healthcare organizations’ cutting operating expenses, has led to a growing backlog of project-related initiatives.

Although IT teams are working feverishly to activate projects in the shortest time possible, such as the travel industry, there is an increasing level of frustration among users waiting for efforts to be invested in their now mission-critical projects.

You may be thinking: where is the cautious positivity given the current situation?

First, the current moment reinforces the critical importance of IT teams within every healthcare organization. Operational users have recognized that significantly improving patient care, as well as achieving administrative and operational efficiencies, requires IT enablement and alignment between IT and operations teams.

Second, organizations have begun to recognize that the fact that a request is submitted does not necessarily mean that it is appropriate to devote effort to that request. As a result, organizations have become much more diligent in identifying intended benefits and holding requesting users accountable for the intended results.

This sounds very professional, doesn’t it? For those projects selected to continue, a prioritization methodology can be used to address the most critical needs first.

Finally, this project prioritization process reflects 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 reimbursements will remain relatively stable while overall costs tend to increase.

For many, the past year was one of stabilization as organizations emerged from the shadows of COVID-19. This new foundation will now serve as the foundation for the renaissance of technological and innovative advancements within our organizations.

Focusing on physician efficiency through AI tools such as ambient listening, patient history summaries, and automated email responses are the first efforts to pursue.

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

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

Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has managed the many challenges of the pandemic. Through dedication, perseverance, and sometimes a little luck, our organizations are now poised to reach new heights.

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

Mike Restuccia is the chief information officer of Penn Medicine

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