As a direct consequence of the economic and financial crisis, governments in Western Europe have been looking to curb healthcare expenditure, which represents one of the most substantial items in their budgets. 
Consequently, hospitals and healthcare services have been pushed to increase efficiency and productivity with the goal to deliver at least the same level of quality, care, and safety with reduced levels of resources, according to a new IDC Health Insights report.
“In a resource-stretched scenario, keeping the IT department decisions aligned with the long term business objectives is not an easy task,” says Silvia Piai, IDC Health Insights EMEA research manager.
“But the future of hospitals lies in their capability to offer services that are co-ordinated with those of other providers in their catchment areas. Hospitals’ CIOs have to architect for reusability, interoperability, and scalability when implementing new enterprise and line-of-business solutions. Just keeping the lights on for the existing systems will only drive them to a budget-cut vortex.”
Further report findings include:
* The agendas of hospital IT departments are mainly driven by regulation compliance, while aspects of change management and governance are still fairly underestimated, weakening hospitals’ risk management capabilities.
* The weight of maintenance costs has a high impact on enterprise solution investments. Investments are particularly high in areas directly related with new regulation or cost containment initiatives such as procurement platforms and business intelligence (BI) and analytics.
* Electronic medical records (EMRs) continue to lead the agenda of hospital CIOs, while interest in health information exchange (HIE) solutions that focus on bigger co-operation with other providers is still relatively low.
Those investing in HIE are looking more eagerly for SaaS implementations.
IDC Health Insights survey results show that generally, hospital leaders recognise the need to deliver strong performances in service quality and personalisation while mastering financial issues and reducing operational costs, but seem to be less aware of the concrete impact in their IT departments.
ICT investments in the hospital sector have been historically driven by a best-of-breed approach that in many cases has produced a number of supported and unsupported systems that cannot provide a unified flow of data and are unfit to support a patient-centric approach. Survey results show maintenance absorbing sizable portions of Western European hospitals’ ICT budget.
There is a strong need to consolidate IT systems and rethink the way hospitals procure, implement, and consume ICT solutions.
The role of ICT in this transformation toward more personalised and lean services is widely recognised, but to understand if hospital executives are aware of the overall implications of this change of pattern, IDC Health Insights asked more than 100 Western European hospital executives to name their business priorities leading the organisation agenda in 2013, and then asked them to rate the importance of specific initiatives within their IT department.
Highlights include:
* Patient centricity, both in terms of QoS enhancement access and protection of sensitive data, are the primary business priorities and drivers for hospital investments in ICT. The pressure to reduce public healthcare expenditure is also clearly reflected in the needs of hospitals to improve performance and reduce both operational and IT costs.
* Evolving regulatory requirements regarding data capture, retention, protection, and security, as well as the increasing risk of severe legal and financial consequences, are determining organisation priorities and driving IT investments.
* Change management shall include alternative governance models – a somewhat underestimated challenge also in terms of IT – that for instance brings together physicians and nurses from different care centres, or changes in funding models that provide an incentive for long-term care and a more collaborative culture.