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Digital Health Most Wired: Healthcare Orgs Focusing on Health Data Usage

With widespread EHR adoption, healthcare organizations are looking toward health data usage to improve outcomes, according to the Digital Health Most Wired 2023 survey.

Healthcare organizations have largely shifted their attention from data capture and storage capabilities to improving outcomes through health data usage, according to The Digital Health Most Wired National Trends 2023 report from CHIME and KLAS.

The report found three overarching themes related to the acceleration of data usage: enhanced data outputs, expanded data inputs, and elevated data direction.

Enhanced Data Outputs

Healthcare organizations are embracing advanced analytics to boost data utility, with 80 percent of interviewed healthcare organizations reporting the use of some form of advanced analytics.  

However, having the ability to use analytics does not always translate to the complete adoption of analytics, the report authors emphasized. Healthcare organizations often use multiple health IT vendors’ solutions across different departments and locations, limiting system integration.

“Realizing the full potential of analytics (especially AI) requires the alignment of technology, data, and strategy,” the report authors wrote. “Further, some advanced analytics capabilities necessitate close collaboration between the healthcare organization and their vendor to achieve optimal results; depending on the level of partnership and support provided by the vendor, success can vary.”

The healthcare industry’s perception of AI has become more grounded in recent years, the report found. Many healthcare organizations who were initially skeptical about AI’s ability to impact care reported enthusiasm for the technology. On the other hand, many organizations that were previously very excited about the technology reported feeling more moderately excited.

Most healthcare leaders agreed that AI is where they have seen the greatest growth in recent years.

“Generative AI has particularly helped the healthcare industry understand that data can have a broader impact beyond operational efficiencies,” the report noted.

Promising use cases for generative AI include clinical documentation improvement, patient scheduling, revenue cycle management, and usage of big data to improve diagnostics.

Expanded Data Inputs

Healthcare organizations are working to support EHR integration of patient-wearable devices to drive patient-centered care. Additionally, the use of employee-owned technologies, like smartphones and tablets, is growing in healthcare delivery.

The report emphasized that while consumer devices present opportunities for mobility and connectivity, healthcare organizations must ensure data security and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Almost all participating healthcare organizations (98 percent) reported that their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy included at least one of the eight elements considered in the Digital Health Most Wired survey. Understandably, the elements most aligned with patient data protection (acceptable use and access control) were the most-cited elements included in organizations’ policies.

“By instituting clear and comprehensive policies, organizations are striving to balance the convenience and familiarity of personal devices with the need to safeguard sensitive information, ultimately supporting the delivery of safe and efficient patient care,” the report underscored.

Elevated Data Direction

The report emphasized that with complex priorities and emerging technologies, the role of chief information officer (CIO) is growing increasingly complex. The 2023 survey found various instances where the historical CIO role is undergoing a transformative shift as new specialty leaders emerge for various domains, including cybersecurity and innovation.

While in some cases, these new roles still fall under the CIO’s oversight, the trend outlines the need for healthcare organizations to define roles in relation to the CIO clearly.

“Overall, this role’s evolution reflects the dynamic healthcare landscape; the advancement of technology coupled with more-specialized leadership is reshaping the leadership structure at many HCOs,” the authors wrote.

“This emergence of dedicated information security leaders reflects an acute awareness of the escalating volume and complexity of cybersecurity threats in healthcare,” they added. “Hiring specialized information security leaders is an essential move for organizations striving to safeguard sensitive patient data and protect critical healthcare systems.”

However, smaller organizations are less likely to have a dedicated security leader in place. In many smaller entities, the CIO takes on the role of an information security leader, which may reflect the resource constraints smaller organizations face.

The authors suggested the need for tailored strategies to address cybersecurity challenges across the diverse care continuum.

“Even smaller institutions need to effectively protect sensitive data and healthcare systems in an increasingly complex threat environment,” they wrote. “Technology partners and service firms working with this demographic of customer have the opportunity to support the CIO by providing guidance and education.”

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