Nov 22 2022

CDW Healthcare Transformation Summit: Lessons Learned in a Changing Landscape

Healthcare IT leaders discussed cloud journeys, the evolving role of CIOs and why the term “digital transformation” doesn’t quite capture what’s happening.

When it comes to the top three multicloud challenges in healthcare, leaders are concerned with data integration across clouds, cost management and performance issues with network overlays, according to Nutanix’s 2022 Enterprise Cloud Index.

Cloud journeys, security and the evolution of the CIO role were central topics of discussion at CDW Healthcare’s industry transformation summit, held in Last Vegas in late September 2022. Healthcare executives, including CIOs and CTOs, gathered with guests from Microsoft, NetApp, Snowflake and CrowdStrike to discuss healthcare’s move to the cloud and more.

David Chou, a healthcare technology executive and adviser who served as co-host for the two-day summit, shared some lessons learned from the event about workforce changes, security hygiene and healthcare IT predictions for the coming years.

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The Rise of Cloud Journeys in Healthcare

At the summit, healthcare executives said that they were onboard with cloud migrations, but some had concerns about additional cost expenditure if they had already made major investments to an on-premises system. “So, how do you make that shift to cloud given the financial burden it may take to get to that flexibility and agility?” Chou asked.

Though cloud adoption is increasing in healthcare, he added, it’s still growing relatively slowly compared with other industries because many healthcare organizations are neither cloud-native nor have a cloud-first approach.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen to put some of the legacy, on-premises environments in the cloud, and a lot of working with the vendors,” Chou said. “Let's say you aspire to move everything to the cloud, but the top 15 percent of your portfolio is made and designed to be on-premises. When you move it to the cloud, there will be a lot of renegotiations and contracting that will need to be reevaluated and updated. That's the complicated piece.”

WATCH: How Providence enhances patient care with the cloud.

On a positive note, Chou said Software as a Service options are helping organizations adopt cloud technology. Subscription-based services are accelerating cloud migrations as well.

Another piece of the cloud discussion involves the workforce: What happens to an organization’s service engineers when it moves to the cloud? Chou said upskilling will be a critical issue, especially when deciding who is responsible for new training.

“Is that the responsibility of the employer? Or should the individual upskill and take initiative to learn what's needed for the next generation to support the future techs?”

Security Is Everyone's Responsibility in Healthcare

Security was also top of mind for summit attendees, Chou said, especially with regard to leadership responsibilities and reliance on managed services.

Ultimately, security responsibilities shouldn’t fall only on the shoulders of the CIO or CTO, he said; it must be organizationwide. Even when an organization has all the right technological tools, if employees haven’t been trained and still fall prey to phishing attempts, the entire health system is vulnerable. 

“I think a lot of executives still struggle to figure out how to get to the table to make security an organizationwide initiative,” Chou said.

He likened security hygiene to clinical hygiene: Handwashing, for example, is an imperative throughout a hospital; security must be the same. It needs to be part of an organization’s DNA.

EXPLORE: Why healthcare cybersecurity is a team effort.

More organizations are coming to terms with the time, effort and investment it takes to build a robust security program — it doesn’t just happen overnight. With so many best-of-breed solutions out there, where are areas in which organizations can consolidate? Is “good enough” for a solution actually good enough? Where can organizations form key security partnerships? 

Some healthcare CISOs are starting to understand that it might not make sense to wait for a fully staffed in-house security team and that managed services can help.

“Given the prevalence of security concerns, to be safe, you have to be able to utilize major partners rather than try and build it out when you just can’t do that,” Chou said.

Healthcare’s Evolution Goes Beyond Digital Transformation

As a buzzword, digital transformation doesn’t truly capture the change that’s happening in healthcare, according to Chou — it’s more like operational transformation, a redesigning of processes.

“That’s where the forward-thinking CIOs and digital officers can influence an organization to change its operating model,” Chou said. “The ones that can do that can drive the transformation and use all these tools. But you can’t use the tools if you don't design or redesign the operating model.”

For example, healthcare supply chain management is an area rife with opportunities for operational transformation, Chou said, but many organizations likely haven’t changed how they’ve operated for at least the past decade. And if they haven’t changed their operations, it won’t make sense to slap the latest and greatest technologies on top.

David Chou
It takes a savvy executive who can influence an organization, navigate it and also have a good understanding of an effective operational model to best drive forward.”

David Chou Healthcare Technology Executive and Adviser

Digital patient access is another area primed for growth and improvement, especially with appointment scheduling and access to health and billing information. But scheduling a doctor’s appointment can’t work the same way as, say, OpenTable works for the restaurant industry. That type of transformation will require more initiative and leadership.

“It takes a savvy executive who can influence an organization, navigate it and also have a good understanding of an effective operational model to best drive forward,” Chou said.

The Changing Role of the CIO in Healthcare

As the role of the CIO evolves, Chou said, the focus is no longer solely on technology and making sure everything is humming along, but also about the overall growth of an organization. Being a resilient healthcare executive means so much more today.

“When we talked about resiliency, we had different viewpoints,” he added. “One is technical resiliency: How do we have a technology environment that can grow quickly, securely, and then help the business drive to where it needs to be?”

The other viewpoint, Chou said, is more business oriented: “We cannot just focus on tech. It's about what problem we're trying to solve using the technology. Can we help the organization provide better patient care? Can we help the organization grow revenue? Can we create revenue streams?”

CIOs cannot be pigeonholed into electronic medical record implementation, he said. As healthcare organizations look to enterprise resource planning tools as the next wave of implementation, Chou said he hopes it isn’t a repeat of previous projects and that CIOs can really add value to and influence the process.

DISCOVER: Insights on the evolution of the CIO role in healthcare from leaders at CHIME22.

A 2023 Healthcare Technology Trend Forecast

So, what predictions did Chou have for healthcare IT in 2023 and the next couple of years?

The first had to do with digital patient access, especially through a central platform. “I hope people are just not waiting for their EMR to solve that. I think there are a lot of other solutions that can connect to other third-party solutions to create the ideal digital patient access experience,” he said.

Chou also said that healthcare systems are still not using the proper tools to collect and analyze data and create meaningful insights. And while there are tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning, many still need time to refine their algorithms, which they can best do so with more data. Chou suggested that organizations consider creating key partnerships to turn their data into insight.

Finally, Chou predicts that voice solutions using natural language processing and other AI capabilities to help with documentation and administrative processes will take hold of the industry, especially as clinician burnout continues.

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