It is impossible to reflect on 2021 without considering it through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. The year was a wave of emotions, flowing in bleakly at first, building hopes with the promise of vaccines, then ebbing expectations as the Delta and Omicron variants created setbacks. One thing that I can conclude through it all is the healthcare community is very resilient. Everyday, I find myself amazed at the speed in which the industry moves to innovate in order to make the world a safer place.

As with all areas of healthcare, COVID has had a major impact on the HIT space. The way we work continued to evolve in 2021, with most organizations remaining in a remote or hybrid capacity. Lessons learned from the beginning of the pandemic have thankfully begun to stabilize these efforts somewhat. Throughout these shifting conditions, the EHR market did not stay stagnant. While sporadic spikes in COVID positivity rates have impacted many plans, new EHR projects have adapted and continued to kick off.

As we look ahead to another year living and working with COVID-19, HIT professionals have much to consider. The ongoing effects of the Great Resignation, an increasing rate of industry disruption and the shifting state of conference and networking events are poised to define an unpredictable year ahead.   

Pent Up Demands Meets Tight Talent Supply

Then: The Great Resignation shocked the working world in 2021. Turnover spiked to all-time highs, sending organizations to feverishly develop employee retention programs.  Through it all, there were still several EHR go-lives throughout the year, relying on a hybrid approach in navigating gaps in teams. 

Now: Employers are embracing new ways to meet employee needs with increased benefit offerings, including flexible work opportunities. The success of remote and hybrid roles are going to be critical for technology roadmaps to remain on track. Therefore, creativity is key as organizations strive to complete long delayed projects, including: Optimization, Upgrades and Clinical Satisfaction/EHR Efficiency initiatives.

Healthcare Technology Disruption Ramps Up

Then: Like many industry insiders, I have always thought that healthcare was ripe for some sort of disruption. This is not a new topic by any means; organizations of all stripes have tried to develop strategies to penetrate the market over the years. In 2021, two disruptions took center stage. 

  • First, we witnessed the adoption of third party hosting for Epic software. AWS is on track to be the platform for a major healthcare systems production version of Epic. Meanwhile, another organization went live with Epic on a Microsoft Azure platform. 
  • Second, the year closed with a blockbuster announcement when the news broke of Oracle acquiring Cerner. Wow! I have worked in the Oracle space for 25 years and have seen the organization be a leader in software, technology and cloud. Their resilience in the marketplace and ability to evolve sets the stage for interesting developments in the EHR software industry.  

Now: Last year was just the beginning of a larger trend of disruptions to come. Cloud adoption will accelerate as more and more customers look to deploy their EHR to the cloud. It will also be an interesting year to see how Oracle plans to integrate Cerner into their business. What are the short and long term plans for the software? The acquisition news grabbed headlines, now it’s time to see what this means in practice. 

Rethinking Conferences and Industry Events

Then: Raise your hand if you had to change or cancel plans to attend conferences or other industry events in 2021! As safety concerns changed from week to week, remote and hybrid events quickly became the norm across the board. In theory, this shift to a virtual setting should have been a perfect fit for a tech-centric industry. After all, the content was impactful. However, I could not shake the feeling that the true value of these events – face to face collaboration with peers and industry experts – was missing. 

Now: Unfortunately, we cannot predict where COVID will take us next. With that in mind, the hybrid trend seems likely to continue in the events space. Mainstay gatherings, such as HIMSS, are finding ways to meet the moment with new features, including featured digital-only speakers. Newcomers to the event space, like ViVe, also add an interesting wrinkle to the schedule this year. While I am excited to see where forward thinking technology minds will take events in the future, I’ll admit – I miss the good old days of in-person networking! Here’s hoping we can return to the basics at some point soon. 

Looking Ahead 

In 2021, we rode an unpredictable wave of developments. From the pull of embracing new workplace technologies to the push back of evolving COVID variants, the healthcare IT industry weathered a rocky sea with varied success. As 2022 unfolds, there will surely be surprises that make a splash. For now, the best we can do is make sure our people are prepared to adapt with the support needed to allow innovation to thrive.

Do you need support with your HIT projects in 2022 and beyond? Click here to learn how Medix Technology helps build top teams needed to navigate projects to success. 

Tony Catalano is Vice President of EHR Solutions at Medix Technology. He is an industry innovator, leading companies into unexplored territory toward revenue-generating opportunities and cost-saving automation. Tony is adept at leading business-wide functional and IT transformation programs.