How Should Health Care CIOs Handle All Of That Data?

Health care data comes with a lot of promise, but it also has limits
Health care data comes with a lot of promise, but it also has limits
Image Credit: Lisa Brewster

Health care CIOs are dealing with an industry that is undergoing a great deal of change. The technology that they are responsible for is in the process of changing how health care is delivered. The importance of information technology is impacting everything from pharmaceutical research to improving the ability to detect when people have become addicted to opioids. However, the rate of change is not happening as fast as some CIOs had been hoping just a few years ago. What do health care CIOs need to be doing today to prepare for a tomorrow that will be dramatically different?

The Promise Of Artificial Intelligence

One of the hottest areas that every person in the CIO position is currently watching is artificial intelligence (AI). It seems to be entering our homes and starting to drive our cars. However, in the field of health care, people with the CIO job believe that AI is still on the margins of what they are trying to do. AI is currently viewed as being just another tool that health care CIOs have in their IT toolbox. CIOs are currently engaged in experimenting with many different forms of digital technology. They have been motivated to do this after sitting on the sidelines and watching smartphones and the internet disrupt other industries.

The goal for health care CIOs is to find ways to use technology to automate their operations and find ways to create data-driven predictions. The goal is to create new efficiencies in the health care industry. The health care industry is a large industry that is responsible for roughly 10% of the U.S. gross domestic product. Health care CIOs have two goals for getting involved with AI. First, they want to help their scientists discover new drugs. Secondly, they would like to find ways to improve the health care industry’s success rate in finding ways to bring treatments to regulatory approval. The goal is to use AI to make progressively more accurate predications while simultaneously finding ways to get more out of their company’s R&D budget.

The results that CIOs have had so far from using AI in their IT departments have been mixed. They have had some successes using AI to forecast both the company’s financial results and enrollments in their clinical trials. However, currently CIOs are doubtful that AI can be used to keep up with the rapid advances that they are seeing in complex diseases such as cancer. They also doubt that AI is going to prove to be any better at predicting which drugs will work successfully than humans currently do.

How Can Technology Help Health Care?

What CIOs need to realize is that a lot of the limitations that they are seeing in applying AI to solving health care problems come about not because of limitations in AI technology. Rather, it turns out that using AI for drug discovery is limited because there are gaps in what we know about how diseases work in the human body. Until we understand biology better, AI won’t be able to solve a lot of the IT problems that we have.

However, that doesn’t mean that digital technology can’t play a big role in health care IT departments. Areas where technology can be a big help include record-keeping and helping with communication. In these areas, applying technology to solving problems could result in significant savings for firms. With the proper application of correct technologies, it is estimated that health care companies could reduce their research & development budgets by up to 20%. Technology can be applied to the process of running clinical trials which today rely on paper records and in-person visits with trial sites.

There are some bright areas that CIOs can look into. One such area is the use of machine learning to analyze tumor samples that have been taken from biopsies. Going one step further, in the future health care companies could sequence the DNA of all of their patients and then combine that data with the patient’s medical records and treatment outcomes. The goal of doing this is to allow doctors to use the IT information to predict the one or two drugs that would be most likely to result in a positive outcome for a patient based on their genetic profile and their medical history. All of this will require a great deal of data be processed and the development of sophisticated computer algorithms.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs that work for health care companies are having to deal with a great deal of change. New drug discoveries, new treatment options, and changes in how people want to receive their medical services are all requiring health care companies to change the way that they do business. This means that health care CIOs are having to study their market and then implement changes that will allow their company to deal with a changing market.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a key technology that all health care CIOs are currently looking into. Although AI is a powerful tool, many health care CIOs view it as still being located on the margins of health care technology. CIOs would like to find ways to use AI to automate the things that their IT department does. Using AI to discover new drugs and then bring those drugs to regulators is the ultimate goal. AI is currently being used to track finances and it is thought that dealing with complex diseases like cancer may be too much for AI. Limitations in how we use AI may be due to limitations in how much we know about human biology. Digital technology can be applied to health care companies to help with record keeping and communication tasks. Using big data sets, tumors can be analyzed and patients can have their DNA sequenced in order to match them to the best treatment options.

Change is the one constant that health care CIOs have to deal with. The arrival of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are causing CIOs to take a careful look at them in order to determine how they can be used within health care IT departments. AI in particular holds a great deal of promise. There are concerns that AI will not provide magic answers to the questions that health care CIOs are asking; however, they can help to further automate the IT department. Going forward health care CIOs are going to have to make some important decisions as to if they want to use AI technologies to deal with all of their health care data.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that health care CIOs should start to staff their IT departments with AI experts?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The person with the CIO job has a problem on their hands. The world has changed and a new breed of technology has rolled into the IT department: artificial intelligence (AI). The entire company is getting excited about the importance of information technology and the possibilities that AI can bring to the company: processing of large volumes of data, accurate forecasts, and improved automation. However, the person in the CIO position knows that they actually have a bit of a problem on their hands: AI systems are only as good as the data that you feed to them. It turns out that most of us have a lot of “dirty data”.