Hospital CIOs: The biggest challenge in 2013 will be ...

Healthcare technology professionals have had their fill of challenges in 2012, from working to meet Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, to preparing for other government initiatives, such as the switch to ICD-10 coding--which has been pushed back by a year. As the year begins to wind down, we wanted to know what looming challenges will be top-of-mind for such hospital CIOs entering 2013.

Not surprisingly, Meaningful Use and ICD-10 remain in the forefront for some professionals. Stephen Stewart, CIO at Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, said the collision of both initiatives will be his organization's most pressing challenge.

"By October 2013, I need to be running Meaningful Use Stage 2 certified software; I may be able to push back starting until Jan. 1, 2014. All the while, we'll be continuing our test and training plans for ICD-10," Stewart (right) told FierceHealthIT. "Planning and early executions will be the challenge of 2013."

Stewart added that creating awareness and implementing training will be key to his organization's efforts. "We are assuming that we have to do it all with no more relief, and are preparing to do so," he said.

Ed Marx, CIO at Dallas-based Texas Health Resources, and Indranil Ganguly, CIO at Freehold Township, N.J.-based CentraState Healthcare System, both talked about business and payment models as being top issues for their facilities. Staying one step ahead of the business side of healthcare is a must, Marx (left) told FierceHealthIT, and extreme collaboration with business experts is inevitable.

Ganguly, meanwhile, told FierceHealthIT that a combination of regulatory requirements and a need for better tools and metrics will serve as drivers for staying on top of business intelligence issues.

"The work required to lay in a strong business intelligence infrastructure is massive and labor intensive," Ganguly (right) said. "This puts pressure on the competing issues for IT in 2013, which include the ICD-10 conversion and expanding [computerized provider order entry] and [health information exchange]."

For Dave Holland, CIO at Southern Illinois Healthcare in Carbondale, Ill., the biggest challenge in 2013 will be taking action with all of the information his organization has been able to gather via technology.

"We've implemented EHRs in the hospital and in the practices. We've achieved Meaningful Use," Holland (left) told FierceHealthIT. "Our focus now is to get all of this data to become information. We need to tie processes together to improve patient flow throughout the system [not just one department or one encounter]."

Holland added that in order to achieve those goals, his organization plans to stress teamwork between clinicians, and to increasingly stress patient engagement.

Roger Neal, CIO at Duncan (Okla.) Regional Hospital, said that balancing resources--in particular, employees--for all of the above issues will be what keeps him up at night. It's a problem that continues to plague hospital CIOs.

"There just aren't that many people coming out with healthcare backgrounds that also have good, solid IT backgrounds," Neal (right) told FierceHealthIT. "With the pace of change and need, a lot of places need seasoned people, and it's tough to take new people and get them ramped up quickly to be productive. In our department, it takes about a year to get a new person onboard, trained and proficient enough to go the road alone and get things done."