Survey: Most health informatics executives see ‘big tech’ as a threat

f the likes of Google, Amazon or Facebook make a push into the hospitality business there is no doubt that the level of disruption on the current business environment would be staggering.
Health IT executives say big tech companies like Google could wedge between consumers and health systems. (Getty Images/Prykhodov)

Healthcare informatics executives are feeling a pinch of anxiety heading into next year thanks to a growing interest in healthcare from the world's foremost technology companies. 

Seven in 10 health IT executives are “somewhat concerned” about technology companies like Google, Amazon and Apple encroaching into the healthcare space, according to a new survey by the Center for Connected Medicine, jointly operated by GE Healthcare, Nokia and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Quantitative and qualitative polls conducted over the course of several months focused on informatics leaders in the C-suite, including chief informatics officers, chief medical informatics officers and chief nursing informatics officers spanning nearly 40 health systems.

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RELATED: Jamie Dimon: Amazon, Berkshire partnership ‘pissed off’ healthcare companies

Just 17% of respondents said they were not worried at all about  "big tech” companies entering the healthcare space, while 10% said they were very concerned. That aligns with comments from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon that the bank’s healthcare venture with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway “pissed off” some healthcare executives.

Those concerns revolved primarily around the ability of those companies to offer a better consumer experience, according to the report.

“The biggest threat is if these companies get between us and the end consumer,” one CEO said. “If there is a platform regulated and controlled by someone other than us—that makes us nervous."

Others said the technology companies would force price transparency faster than incumbent health systems are willing to go, which some executives say could lead to confusion among consumers. Of course, patient advocates have long pushed for broader transparency in healthcare where prices for one procedure can vary wildly from one hospital to the next.

RELATED: Hospitals aren’t the only ones with price variation. New research shows payers have large discrepancies, too

Some executives, however, highlighted new partnership opportunities with the tech companies, particularly in the supply chain. A survey earlier this year found that the majority of healthcare executives believe Amazon can live up to its hype in that regard.

Broadly, there is a subtle shift in priorities for the nation’s top health IT executives. Cybersecurity remains top of mind for health systems, but more established technology challenges have bubbled back to the surface. Heading into 2019 survey respondents said telehealth and interoperability were top of mind, in addition to cybersecurity, replacing predictive analytics and consumer-facing technology in last year’s survey.

Cybersecurity is the lone stalwart. Nearly 90% of respondents said they expect to increase their cyber budgets in 2019, and half of those said the increase would be greater than 5%. Just 20% said they were “very confident” in their IT recovery and business continuity plans, and most executives still see staff as the biggest target, with spearphishing campaigns as the most pervasive challenge.

“The people that are up to no good have far better tools than we do on our platforms,” one CEO said. “If they really target you, they will likely find a way in.”

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