Healthcare IT Spending on the Rise

By January 19, 2017Newsletter Article

By: Jim Tempio, First American Healthcare Finance

Survey finds top drivers of healthcare IT investment are improving patient experience and engagement

In an era of digital natives, new technological solutions to healthcare challenges appear almost daily. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of hospitals report increased tech budgets for this fiscal year. Additionally, over a quarter of hospitals have seen more than a 5 percent increase. A recent survey* by First American Healthcare Finance, in partnership with the American Hospital Association, identified this rise in budgeting for hospital and health system information technology.

Where Are Healthcare Organizations Investing?

With endless possibilities, where are providers investing IT? In 2016, First American met with over 700 unique healthcare organizations to learn about their top investment priorities. Out of 900+ projects, top IT investments fell into four buckets:

  • Infrastructure to run operations and keep data safe with server, software, and wireless infrastructure upgrades.
  • Communication to make verbal and digital flow of information more efficient, using tablets, iPhone, nurse call systems, EMR upgrades, and telehealth.
  • Patient monitoring devices to boost preventative care using heart failure prevention devices (necklaces, wristbands, and watches), nutrition tracking devices and apps, and food scanners.
  • Revenue generating items such as da Vinci robots, hybrid operating rooms, cutting-edge ultrasound and imaging equipment, artificial intelligence in robots, and 3D bio-printing.

In the past, technology in healthcare organizations meant a handful of computers, some digital monitoring equipment, and a few pieces of imaging equipment. In today’s healthcare environment, technology has never been more aligned with every aspect of the patient experience. Additionally, as physicians utilize these devices, it is more important organizations invest in them. Also, every organization has an EMR system and diagnostic results are shared via mobile devises, many times through cloud computing networks. With this shift in the use of technology, providers must also focus on appropriate security measures to ensure the data they are collecting is safe.

Randy McCleese, CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and former member of the CHIME Board of Trustees describes how technology is impacting every aspect of healthcare, not just the IT department. “Medical equipment is a huge issue for us. In healthcare, we tend to keep pieces of medical equipment for a number of years, sometimes even until it is 15-20 years old. When the equipment was manufactured, the security requirements for that piece of equipment were so different than security requirements today. We must pay attention to devices that are connected to the network and how much data they can share across that network into our EMR. That falls into the security because we have to make sure that they are secure and the data flowing from them are secure, so we don’t have ransomware getting into those devices.”

As healthcare organizations invest in new technology, they should consider the overall impact of the equipment to the organization, staff, and patients. Examples of some questions to ask are:

  • Will additional training for staff be needed?
  • What data will be stored on the device?
  • Does the equipment sync with current systems or will additional software be needed?
  • Do patients have access to the data?
    • If so, full access or partial?
    • Are our current systems robust enough to keep data safe?

Alternatively, routine questions should be asked about old technology to make sure equipment does not become obsolete. Examples of questions to ask about old technology would be:

  • What is the recommended useful life?
  • Does the old technology sync with the new?
  • Are there gaps in the technology that make data vulnerable to attacks?
  • Would new technology create efficiencies that old technology cannot match?

As technology factors more and more into patient care and satisfaction, it is important to stay informed of changes by using peer organizations to find new best practices and receiving guidance from industry associations and key partners.

*To read a report on the full survey results, visit: