Health systems' IT priorities for 2018: Cybersecurity technologies, patient-generated data

Cybersecurity improvements are top of mind for health IT executives in the coming year, but they're planning a more cautious approach when it comes to technologies like wearables and artificial intelligence, according to a new survey. 

The Pittsburgh-based Center for Connected Medicine, a partner of UPMC, and the Health Management Academy surveyed IT leaders at more than 20 major U.S. health systems and found that 92% plan to increase spending technology to improve cybersecurity next year. 

However, close to two-thirds (63%) said that trying AI solutions was a low or very low priority for 2018. 

"Fine-tuning of EHR is a top priority, as well as cybersecurity," one CIO said. "These are not cutting-edge things; … it's more about maintaining." 

RELATED: Hospital IT execs see employees as their biggest security threat, survey finds 

The health systems participating in the survey said they would invest resources to boost employees working on cybersecurity, too. Sixty-seven percent said they planned to hire new cybersecurity staff and 42% plan to expand IT leadership. 

IT leaders said they want to be more proactive in detecting and preventing cyberattacks or data breaches. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they want to invest in better identification technologies, including risk assessment and education initiatives, and 50% said they plan to invest in protection and detection programs. 

One CIO categorized their system as "cautiously prepared" for cyberthreats, a sentiment expressed by a number of respondents. Those surveyed said that although their health systems are prepared for threats, the uncertainty as to what form the next cyberattack might take is a challenge. 

RELATED: We asked the experts—Is healthcare prepared for a a wide-scale cyberattack like WannaCry? 

In addition to being hesitant to adopt AI tech, many of the surveyed executives were not fully sold on wearables or mobile apps. Most (88%) said patient portals provided valuable sources of patient data, while 46% said the same about home monitoring equipment. 

However, just 21% said mobile apps provide valuable data, and 17% said the same about wearables. 

There is a demand for patient-generated data, though, the survey found. Fifty-four percent of the health systems included in the study already integrate patient-generated data into their EHR, and 33% do not, but plan to next year.