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Hannah Nelson


To recover from COVID-19’s financial downturn and improve patient outcomes, healthcare organizations are prioritizing health IT and EHR optimization.


Healthcare organizations are investing in health IT resources and EHR optimization after a year of COVID-19 financial turbulence, according to the 9th annual Health IT Industry Outlook survey conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting Inc.

The survey collected insights from chief information officers (CIOs) or IT directors at a variety of healthcare facilities.

According to the results, EHR optimization is a big-ticket item for most CIOs in 2021. More than half of respondents (59 percent) said that "getting the most out of existing IT purchases, like the EHR system" is their healthcare organization’s biggest financial goal post-COVID-19.

“In a rapidly evolving environment, technology must adapt to the changing needs of healthcare and the changing preferences of consumers more directly involved in their own care journeys,” the researchers wrote.

Approximately one in three CIOs (31 percent) reported that EHR new version upgrades are the top IT spending priority for their healthcare organizations, while one in four industry leaders reported investment in cybersecurity measures as the top spending priority for 2021.

However, despite CIOs reporting greater investment in EHR upgrades, 33 percent of respondents said cybersecurity was their organization’s top mission-critical priority compared to 30 percent who reported EHR upgrades as the top mission-critical priority.  This is likely due to the uptick in healthcare cybersecurity events in 2021, the report authors noted.

Additionally, after a pause in early 2020, healthcare mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are growing in popularity once again, prompting CIO interest in health IT system integration, the survey authors explained. Approximately 20 percent of CIOs reported that IT integration after system consolidation is a mission-critical priority, indicating the need for high-quality IT support.

However, more than half of respondents (55 percent) reported that as they face decreased revenues from COVID-19, budgeting for qualified IT resources is their organization’s most significant operational burden for the second consecutive year.

The researchers said that enabling a mix of flexible and properly skilled staff is key as CIOs seek to lessen administrative burden and control costs.

When IT support teams are well-versed in both the EHR system and the healthcare organization’s cross-organizational workflow and communication practices, they can better tailor processes to maximize efficiency and system utilization, the researchers explained.

“At a time when the digital experience has become a competitive differentiator for hospitals and health systems, many internally operated help desks cannot handle the crush of inquiries coming their way,” the researchers wrote. “Utilizing IT support resources who can easily flex in and out of project area needs is pivotal for nimble response that better optimizes IT spending without draining resource costs or adding on ramp up and training time.”

Additionally, the researchers called for CIOs to apply analytics to end-user support. By doing so, organizations can determine where further investment is needed. For instance, help desk incident analysis helps underscore large-scale workflow or system education difficulties, the researchers said.

“As a clear view into organization-wide EHR use, this is especially helpful during mission critical events, like crisis management, new system go lives or EHR upgrades to detect areas of concern,” the report authors wrote.