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Hospitals Continue to Value Healthcare Cybersecurity, Patient Safety

Hospital leaders prioritize patient safety and healthcare cybersecurity, while vendors place big data analytics and interoperability as key considerations.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- Vendor and healthcare leadership teams have differing IT priorities for 2018, according to the 2018 HIMSS U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey. Hospitals are honing in on healthcare cybersecurity and data privacy needs, while vendors continue to place big data analytics and interoperability at the top of their list.

Hospital leadership ranked privacy, security, and cybersecurity as their number two priority for this year, with patient safety the top focus area.

Comparatively, vendors and consultants stated that data analytics/clinical and business intelligence was a top priority. Health information exchange (HIE), interoperability and data integration were put in the number two slot.

Patient safety was the top priority for hospital leadership in 2017 as well, followed by EHRs, and then privacy, security, and cybersecurity. For 2018, EHRs dropped to the 8th spot, while process improvement, workflow, change management moved up to number three.

Vendors and consultants had more drastic changes in where they will be focusing for 2018. Data analytics was ranked 9th in 2017, while HIE/interoperability/data integration was in the 5th spot. Improving quality outcomes through health IT was number three for 2018, inching up from its number two spot in 2017.

READ MORE: HIMSS18 Focusing on Holistic Healthcare Cybersecurity

HIMSS researchers noted that patient safety, supply chain, and HIE/interoperability/data integration were the three areas in which the two leadership groups showed the most differing opinions. Those three areas had a statistically significant difference.

“The assessment of ‘Patient Safety’ by Hospital respondents is not only their top issue but one in which Vendors/Consultants truly assess (statistically) differently,” report authors explained. “This finding suggests Vendors/Consultants and their Hospital clients/prospects may be ‘talking past’ each other on this issue and as such, presents as an opportunity for Vendors/Consultants to re-evaluate their assessment of this issue.”

Even with differing priorities, vendors and their clients could still be working toward complementary goals. Improved health IT tools could help prevent data breaches and even reduce medical errors.

HIMSS also pointed out that even with some priorities adjusting from 2017 to 2018, both survey groups had three 2017 priorities appear as the top five priorities in 2018. For example, both groups had “Privacy, Security and Cybersecurity” and components of “Quality and Patient Safety Outcomes” (as listed in the 2017 priority list) appear as top priorities each year.

Increasing cybersecurity concerns do not seem to have affected healthcare organizations bringing on more leadership for privacy and security specifically. Forty-two percent of surveyed entities said they had a CISO in 2018, with 41 percent saying the same in 2017.

READ MORE: Why Guidance is Critical for Strengthening Healthcare Cybersecurity

Approximately three-quarters of healthcare organizations reported that they had a CIO employed by their hospital in 2017. That number increased to 87 percent in 2018.

Surveyed hospitals also said that they will likely face a decreasing budget in 2018. Forty-three percent reported that their operating budgets are expected to go down, compared to 18 percent that expected the same in 2017.

Eighty-six percent of vendors stated that they are expecting an increase in their operational budget this year, which could create problems between the two groups going forward.

“If Vendors/Consultants expend resources as projected and Hospitals fail to meet the Vendor’s/Consultant’s expectations, Vendors/Consultants may find they have overextended themselves and potentially experience financial challenges,” HIMSS explained in the report.

Workforce sizes are also not projected to be the same for vendors and healthcare organizations.

READ MORE: Healthcare Cybersecurity Top Digital Priority for Org Leaders

Thirty-seven percent of hospitals said that their IT workforce increased in the past year, while 67 percent of vendors said the same. For 2017, just over half of hospitals reported an increase in their IT workforce. Sixty-one percent of vendors stated there was an increase in 2017.

“While the findings for the Vendor/Consultant respondents this year are similar to last year’s results, the hospital results are notably different,” HIMSS explained. “Only 34 percent of hospitals have open positions to fill in 2018 compared to 61 percent of hospitals with open positions in the 2017 report.”

Healthcare organizations also reported increasing workforce challenges, which forced them to place on hold or scale back an IT project or initiative in the past year. Fifty-one percent of hospitals said they were negatively impacted in the past year by a workforce challenge, with 47 percent adding that a project was placed on hold.

One-third of vendors stated that they were negatively impacted by a workforce challenge, with 33 percent being forced to put a project on hold.

Hospitals have a wide array of IT leaders who are having an increasing influence, report authors concluded. Vendors should “be very purposeful in establishing and managing their relationships with an array of hospital information and technology executives.”

Healthcare organizations are likely hesitant in investing in too many technological initiatives because of past challenges with completing projects, HIMSS added.

“Given the variance in future projections, leaders from Vendor/Consultant organizations are encouraged to challenge their assumptions about the market’s willingness to acquire needed information and technology solutions so that they do not overextend their organizations and experience financial challenges.”

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