Healthcare executives are focused on three areas of health IT in 2019 – cyber security, telehealth and interoperability – which they believe will have the greatest impact on the industry next year.

Those are among the findings from a new survey of 44 execs representing 38 health systems with average annual revenues of $5.3 billion.

The survey, released by the Centre for Connected Medicine in partnership with The Health Management Academy, was the second consecutive year that the organisations collaborated to research the most pressing HIT issues C-suite leaders are anticipating.

Increasing spend on defence

“As health system leaders look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the coming year, they are increasing their spending to defend against cyber attacks, expressing optimism about reimbursement for telehealth services, and feeling anxiety about Apple, Amazon and Google entering the healthcare space,” according to the report.

Cyber security remained at the top of the list from last year’s survey, with telehealth and interoperability rising in the 2019 rankings. Last year’s report identified cyber security, consumer-facing technology, and predictive analytics as the top three HIT areas of focus for 2018.

Not surprisingly, spending on cyber security will increase for the second year in a row as health systems attempt to bolster their defences against cyber criminals. In the survey, 87% of respondents indicated that they expect to increase spending on cyber security in 2019, with nearly half expecting an increase of greater than 5%, while no health system is expecting to decrease spending.

Employee education proving challenging

Among healthcare execs, the most commonly cited cyber security challenge was employee education – 62% of respondents named “staff” as the greatest potential vulnerability, with phishing and spear-phishing topping the list of the most common types of cyber attacks over the past 12 months.

“Despite increasing financial investment and prioritisation of cyber security at health systems, executives did not express robust confidence in their organisation’s IT recovery and business continuity plans after an attack or breach,” notes the report. “Seven out of 10 respondents reported being ‘somewhat confident’ in their recovery and continuity plans; only 20% said they were ‘very confident.’”

Source: Health Data Management