FHIR transformative, blockchain overhyped, CIOs say

Innovation was the largest divergence among results with only 14 percent having a dedicated innovation center and a third with no innovation plans in the next 24 months.
By Mike Miliard
01:34 PM
FHIR standards

Innovation is something everyone in healthcare is after. But not everyone is approaching it the same way – and not everyone is able to prioritize it in the ways they'd prefer. That's according to a new survey of CHIME member CIOs from Impact Advisors.

The poll finds significant divergence across health systems with regard to innovation efforts, and an uneven pace of change as certain IT leaders are freer to innovate than others, with the budgets, staff resources and leadership support to put technology to work in envelope-pushing ways.

[Also: 2017: The year interoperability innovation grew legs in the private sector]

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When it comes to emerging technologies set to make their mark on healthcare, HL7's FHIR specification was seen as the one with the most potential to have an impact in the next two years, while blockchain was seen as the most overhyped.

Some 14 percent of CIOs said their organization has launched a dedicated IT Innovation Center.

Twenty-five percent said their health system has formed a partnership focused on innovation with a healthcare IT startup; 16 percent cited a partnership with an IT vendor from outside of healthcare. Forty-three percent say they plan to launch new strategic partnerships focused on innovation, in the next two years, while 36 percent plan to create more structure internally innovation. 

[Also: Innovation: It’s about survival now]

More than a third, however, say they have virtually no plans at all to drive IT innovation in their organizations over the next 24 months.

CIOs' opinions of emerging technologies are especially interesting to note and offer some useful on-the-ground insights in an industry with no shortage of marketing hype.

FHIR and APIs were overwhelmingly seen as the tech with the most transformative potential over the next two years (50 percent of respondents), followed much further down the list by natural language processing (16.1 percent), cloud computing (14.3 percent) and machine learning (12.5 percent). Only 1.8 percent of CIOs surveyed cited blockchain as their top choice, with 48.2 percent listing it as the "most overhyped."

Among other highlights from the report, Impact Advisors found that "formalized IT innovation efforts at surveyed provider organizations are still largely in the early stages, with limited structure currently in place," according to researchers. Just one-third of the CIOs surveyed said their health system has an internal committee or working group that meets regularly about innovation; just one in five said their organization has a  defined portion of its IT budget earmarked specifically for innovation.

The CHIME members surveyed were asked which area of  IT  innovation was their highest priority: The majority (nearly half) said "increasing internal operational efficiencies."

On the other hand, among those who reported having the most structure in place around IT innovation – those with dedicated innovation centers, especially – that priority was the least common response. Instead, half of the most advanced CIOs said enhancing patient experience was their top priority, while another 25 percent cited "driving knowledge and discovery," according to the report.

Among the barriers to IT  innovation, the most common was "other priorities are currently more important," according to 68 percent of the CIOs polled, followed by "resource capacity" (59 percent) and "funding" (55 percent).  

Meanwhile, "only 25 percent of CIOs cited 'lack of governance/structure to support innovation' as a significant barrier, perhaps underscoring the fact that many formalized IT innovation efforts have yet to really even get started," according to the report.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com