HIMSS Analytics looks at top health IT priorities in Europe

New HIMSS Analytics Annual European eHealth Survey provides an insight into top health IT priorities in Europe.
By Tom Sullivan
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Hospital IT executives in Europe share many of the same priorities and face many similar challenges as CIOs in other regions of the globe, including the United States, according to the released on Wednesday.

Among them: empowering patients, sharing health information, protecting sensitive data and managing the growing need for a deeper talent pool.

Why it matters

Healthcare entities around the globe are all facing what is essentially the same set of opportunities and challenges in digital transformation.  

Whether you call it patient experience, engagement or empowerment, HIMSS Analytics found that consumers owning and managing their own data, whether in apps or wearables, is a high priority among the 571 health information and technology professionals who participated in the survey.

"The level of achievement varies," said Jörg Studzinski, director of research and advisory services at HIMSS Analytics. "While countries like Germany and Switzerland need better and more electronic patient records, other ones, especially the Nordics and the Netherlands, can already change their focus toward more innovative ways to provide care, create networks of collaboration and let the patient actively participate in managing more aspects of self-care and prevention."

To that end, HIMSS Analytics listed EMR-maturity as a factor for advancing eHealth projects, as is the ability to share health data.

"In the second wave of digitization, healthcare has to move toward a shared care model," said Jordi Piera, chief information and R&D officer at Badalona Serveis Assistencials, member of the Global Conference Education Committee at HIMSS and secretary of the strategic IT board at the Catalonian Healthcare Department. "Patients should be able to receive all types of care in their prefered location," he added. "This will, in turn, increase the efficiency and sustainability of our organisations."

Enabling that shared care model will also require strong cybersecurity in the age of consumerism. HIMSS Analytics research found that operating with insufficient budget for infosec will continue to be a large challenge for hospitals and healthcare entities in the years ahead – and that is true even though attacks grow increasingly sophisticated.

"Public healthcare institutions are regularly attacked by hackers and often they lose valuable information," Piera said. "We need to put a greater emphasis on protecting our systems; the number of cyberattacks is on the rise and our IT infrastructures and staff are not ready for them. Furthermore the number of patient devices connected to the systems is growing and this poses even greater risks."

What comes next: need for new tech talent

Empowering patients, achieving interoperability and securing health information fuelling the need for new skill sets and, as such, giving rise to emerging career roles.

"While a few years ago it was often sufficient to put digital transformation into the hands of a CIO or an IT director, this is not enough anymore," Studzinski said. "Chief digital officers and chief innovation officers appear in more organisations, especially in larger ones. And it is likely that we will see even more of this differentiation of job roles in the future."