Eighty percent of healthcare CIOs said that patient engagement technology and improving the patient experience are top organizational priorities.

Patient engagement technology and improving the patient experience is top priority for CIOs, as more organizations aim to set themselves apart in the competitive healthcare industry, according to a recent report from Impact Advisors and the Scottsdale Institute.

The report included survey responses from a CIO roundtable at the 2018 Scottsdale Institute Annual Conference. Leaders from organizations such as Avera Health, CHRISTUS Health, Henry Ford Health System, Methodist Le Bonheur Health System, and numerous others, revealed that the patient experience is of highest importance as more organizations face various financial pressures.

Overall, 80 percent of CIOs said that digital health and the patient experience are the highest organizational priority. This finding demonstrates that an increasing number of organizations recognize that healthcare is becoming a competitive, consumer-focused business. Hospitals and clinics must offer technologies that make care access more convenient and the clinic experience more seamless.

Digital health tools should be both patient- and provider-facing, the CIOs reported.

Patient-facing tools can include wearables, connected devices, care management apps such as medication adherence apps, self-service tools such as online scheduling systems or prescription refill tools, or patient experience technology such as navigation and wayfinding tools.

Provider-facing technologies can include care coordination apps, patient-monitoring portals, or clinical decision support tools. These technologies help providers do their jobs in a more accurate and efficient manner, which in turn can improve patient experiences of healthcare.

Virtual care apps and tools such as telehealth or remote patient monitoring tools can be both patient- and provider-facing. These technologies help patients and providers interact from remote locations, making it easier for patients in rural or otherwise hard-to-reach places to access their healthcare.

The root of the patient experience priority is a need to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded healthcare environment. Organizations must offer their patients an exemplary experience to ensure patients visit them instead of the clinic two blocks away.

Additionally, organizations must contend with a set of new market forces, the report authors pointed out.

“The focus by participating CIOs on digital health, virtual care and the overall patient experience is also notable because health-delivery organizations are no longer just competing with other hospitals, health systems and physician practices,” they wrote. “New, non-traditional players have also emerged, such as retail clinics from major pharmacy chains and onsite workplace clinics increasingly being offered by large employers.”

In fact, it is those non-traditional players that may be the biggest competition in healthcare. As different technology groups come into play – the recent Apple or Amazon deals, for example – more organizations must remain competitive.

“Our biggest threat is not in this room,” said Mark Laney, MD, CEO of Mosaic Life Care, during the conference. “It’s the unknown, highly capitalized firm that doesn’t have the same commitment to community.”

Other key executive priorities included IT cost containment and IT value realization, innovation, support for growth, and cybersecurity.

The report authors acknowledged that 22 CIOs was a small sample size, and that their priorities may not be representative of all healthcare organizations.

However, separate research has indicated that improving the patient experience and utilizing better patient engagement technology are regarded as essential investments. Going forward, organizations must assess the specific needs of their own patient populations and determine the technology investments that will return a positive patient experience.