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Big Challenges Facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2019 in the Healthcare, Medical Device and Pharmaceutical Industry

Posted on May 03, 2019 by Medtech[y] Staff

Healthcare has benefited tremendously from information technology. Given the need for precision and the deadly consequences of seemingly tiny errors, IT has helped lower costs, increase efficiency and reduce mistakes in the medical industry. Nevertheless, for all the good that technology has done for medical device manufacturing, pharmaceutical production and hospital record management, it has introduced new challenges.

The healthcare CIOs and IT executives who recognize these challenges and take appropriate mitigating or remedial action will be in the best position of making sure IT is working for and not against their organization. The following is a look at the major challenges healthcare CIOs will have to contend with in 2019 and beyond.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are technologies making waves in a wide range of industries. As far as healthcare is concerned, these technologies have mainly been applied to drug production and device manufacturing.

There’s been much slower adoption within the hospital environment—and with good reason. The liability question is a fairly complex one and there’s still valid concerns about using robots for sensitive procedures that could jeopardize the life of the patient. Still, it’s only a matter of time before AI plays a prominent role in emergency rooms and on the surgery table.

2019 will see healthcare edge ever closer to a world of robots in the operating theatre and CIOs have to play a leading role in ensuring key risks are addressed without losing out on all the benefits AI can provide. CIOs will have the especially critical task of dispelling the distrust of technology among non-IT healthcare professionals.

Strategic Planning

CIOs already sit at the highest decision-making table in many industries. That is due to a recognition of the fundamental place technology holds in driving the organization’s overall objectives. The healthcare industry has however been largely been behind the curve in its application of IT. So it’s understandable that the CIO and other IT executives have so far not been given a seat at the high table.

With technology growing in prominence across all spheres of healthcare, CIOs will have to insist on being involved in strategy development. It’s here that they can share their insights with the rest of the management team by detailing what IT investment will be required to realize the company’s strategic, governance and value goals.

Digitally-Enabled Patients

In the past, doctor’s visits involved the patient narrating their symptoms and perhaps being subjected to a number of tests after which the doctor would make their diagnosis and prescribe the required medication or other action. The patient’s input would end with them explaining their problem. This is changing thanks to the digital revolution that’s transformed every aspect of everyday life.

In particular, patients expect healthcare providers to leverage the power of IT to deliver medical services more effectively. Ergo, CIOs will be required to provide guidance on how their organization can meet these expectations. That includes commissioning mobile apps, setting up the infrastructure needed for virtual healthcare and analyzing patient-generated data to improve service.

If executed well, these tactics can create new and better opportunities for patient engagement while improving institutional decision-making.

Big Data



Medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers will continue to collect and oversee an ever larger quantity of data. This data ranges from medical equipment sales trends to emergency room waiting times. This vast amount of information presents a challenge for CIOs in three ways.

First, this data must be analyzed with the right tools if medical organizations are to extract the actionable insights hidden in it. Second, CIOs must ensure the infrastructure they use to store this data is not just sufficient but also scalable. Third, data management and analysis must always comply with the relevant privacy laws such as HIPAA and GDPR.

Big data management can give healthcare organizations the edge but that will only possible when IT leaders are given the mandate and tools required to get things moving in the right direction.

Increased Surfaces for Cyberattack

We are in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) where Internet-access is no longer limited to desktop computers, laptops, servers and smartphones. Device manufacturers are going out of their way to ensure any gadget they create has sensors and Internet connectivity. That way, it can relay information to a central database in real-time for storage and analysis.

While interconnected devices are a positive for information sharing and improved decision-making, they have also greatly expanded the potential surfaces through which a cyberattack could be launched. CIOs must develop comprehensive cybersecurity policies and procedures that take into account these new vulnerabilities. They must take advantage of automated solutions such as log management tools (try this) that grow their monitoring capabilities without necessarily increasing their IT employee headcount.

There’ll be many other IT challenges in the healthcare industry 2019 but these are bound to be the main ones. IT executives that proactively prepare for them will be best positioned to help their organizations surmount these challenges.