On some of the best and worst days of our lives, we rely on the people, processes, and technology of the healthcare system to take care of us at our most vulnerable. This is why healthcare IT is unlike IT in any other industry.

From data privacy regulations to digital transformation, healthcare IT pros must continuously navigate new challenges and technologies to deliver better patient care. In our 2024 IT Trends Report, we identified the healthcare IT trends shaping these shifts. 

In this article, we’ll break down these key findings, so your IT team can better plan for the year ahead. You’ll gain insights into healthcare IT trends, including: 

  1. Day-to-day support operations 
  2. Remote vs. on-site work
  3. Network configuration backups 
  4. Network device usage
  5. Outsourcing to MSPs
  6. SaaS visibility
  7. Automation adoption
  8. IT staff shortages
  9. Network security

Let’s dive into this year’s top healthcare IT trends. 

It trends 2024: industry report

Planning for the year ahead?

Find out how IT professionals are managing day-to-day operations, dealing with talent shortages, and preparing for future needs.

1. Healthcare ITs spend more time responding to end-user requests

According to this year’s report, 38% of IT professionals track end-user satisfaction as the most important success metric (down from 45% in the 2023 report).

But in healthcare environments, this measure is critical because the IT support desk serves as an essential front line. They are the ones guiding doctors through technical difficulties in the middle of the night, ensuring that busy nurses in the ICU have uninterrupted system access and assisting frustrated patients through accessing their telehealth appointment. For healthcare providers who often can’t afford to wait on hold for a resolution, the responsiveness and efficiency of the IT support desk are crucial.

This gives us a glimpse into one reason why our survey responses indicate that on average, healthcare IT professionals spend more time responding to end-user requests compared to their peers in other industries. Approximately 72% of healthcare ITs spend 10 to 20 hours a week on these tasks, indicating a high demand for IT support in day-to-day operations.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing hours per week spent on end-user requests

For IT teams across all industries, this need for balancing immediate responsiveness with other critical IT functions (and often under tight deadlines) is an ongoing challenge. It emphasizes the potential impact of other healthcare IT trends on the rise, including automation and outsourcing, which are supporting teams in managing these support-heavy workloads efficiently while maintaining reliable response times for optimal patient care.

2. Healthcare has the highest concentration of on-site workers

Healthcare IT trends chart showing remote, hybrid and on-site working models for IT

Following the pandemic, fewer than 10% of internal IT teams support a workforce that is 100% on-site—which means IT is supporting some level of remote working about 90% of the time. Despite this acceleration in remote work across various sectors, healthcare has the highest percentage (16%) of organizations maintaining a 100% on-site work environment. While many IT professionals in our report estimate at least a 50/50 split of cloud-based/on-premises infrastructure in their organizations, healthcare ITs are more likely to have primarily on-premises infrastructure to support these on-site work environments.

There are a few potential reasons healthcare is an outlier in these areas. First, medical staff such as doctors and nurses need to be on-site to effectively deliver care, making it difficult to transition to a remote-first model. Second, healthcare organizations handle highly sensitive patient data, which demands strict security measures that are easier to implement and monitor in a controlled, on-premises environment. Because of the sensitive nature of patients’ personal information, the industry is subject to stringent regulatory requirements—such as HIPAA in the United States and PIPEDA in Canada. 

What does this mean for your healthcare IT team?

If your operations remain primarily on-site, you’ll need to maintain a robust physical infrastructure that enforces security and protection of sensitive information. As the healthcare industry’s reliance on always-available technology deepens, your IT team should prioritize network resilience to avoid disruptions in patient care. Despite this focus, be cautious not to alienate remote work strategies. Finding ways to optimize on-premises infrastructure and still maintain robust remote capabilities for support staff is an ongoing challenge healthcare IT teams will face this year.

3. Healthcare network configurations are backed up less frequently

Compared to their peers in other sectors, healthcare IT professionals are more likely to back up their network configurations monthly or weekly, rather than daily. Only 18% of the healthcare IT respondents from our report say they back up their network daily, versus 27% across other sectors.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing frequency of network configuration backups overall IT vs healthcare IT

This discrepancy may exist because of the unique demands and complexities of healthcare networks. For example, 73% of healthcare IT environments include legacy systems, and many also host specialized devices and complex networks that require careful management. Implementing daily backups could be logistically challenging due to the need for careful scheduling to avoid disruptions in patient care.

But there are risks to backing up the network less frequently, too—from data loss to extended backup recovery times that could potentially lead to greater disruptions to the healthcare network overall. 
For healthcare IT teams, this poses a significant challenge. There’s a fine balance between prioritizing operational continuity and data protection strategies. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, healthcare IT pros should consider developing a backup plan that optimizes network backup schedules, leverages automation to manage them, and prioritizes the most critical systems to minimize potential data loss.

4. Healthcare ITs opt for network devices made by the same vendor

71% of healthcare IT professionals say their network devices (firewalls, switches, etc.) are entirely or mostly made by the same vendor. Almost half are using between 10 to 20 network-related tools in their organization.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing number of network related tools

For healthcare IT teams, managing a largely homogeneous network can have its benefits—from simplified integrations to consistent vendor support. But with such a significant number of network-related tools in use, it can be challenging to manage and maintain them consistently. This calls for developing a comprehensive strategy for proactively monitoring, updating, and securing the entire network infrastructure to prevent gaps in coverage or vulnerabilities. It also means learning to effectively troubleshoot issues across network devices

That said, healthcare networks can be complex, interconnected webs. Just one hospital can have separate networks for patient care, surgery centers, pharmacies, and labs, while also supporting external functions like visitor Wi-Fi, insurance, billing, and more. Thankfully, network management tools can help simplify your IT team’s visibility into these intricate environments, providing a single dashboard for monitoring and troubleshooting devices across your entire network infrastructure.

Outsourcing is becoming a common trend in healthcare IT, with 80% of organizations relying on external partners for critical, network-related tasks.

The top outsourced activities as cited by respondents in the 2024 report include:

  1. Wi-Fi management: More than 45% of healthcare IT professionals are outsourcing Wi-Fi management, acknowledging the complexities of maintaining reliable and secure wireless networks in healthcare environments.
  2. SaaS/cloud monitoring: 45% of respondents rely on external expertise for SaaS and cloud monitoring, ensuring that these increasingly vital services are properly configured, secured, and compliant.
  3. UEM (Unified Endpoint Management): Nearly 43% of respondents are outsourcing UEM to handle the complexities of managing diverse endpoints across their networks, which include mobile devices, computers, and other healthcare equipment.

Outsourcing these functions can free up your team to focus on core activities and strategic initiatives while ensuring that specialized tasks are handled by a network management MSP. This makes navigating the complexities of healthcare IT more manageable, and ultimately results in better patient care.

6. SaaS visibility is lower in healthcare IT than other industries  

Visibility into how employees share and access information is crucial for healthcare organizations, yet this is an area where the industry appears to be lagging.

The IT trends report reveals that 27% of healthcare IT professionals report having zero visibility into employees sharing accounts on SaaS applications. Since almost half of healthcare organizations report using more than 100 SaaS apps, this lack of visibility raises major concerns for compliance and data security.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing saas apps and activities with zero visibility

IT professionals can’t protect what they can’t see. This is why shared access is a major pain point for healthcare IT teams, where it’s common for multiple employees (nurses, for example) to share a single login to workstations and critical systems. This practice introduces risks of unauthorized access and data breaches, particularly when employees fail to log out before leaving workstations or maintain access to sensitive patient data after being offboarded. 

To address these challenges, healthcare IT teams should:

  • Implement SaaS monitoring: Deploy SaaS monitoring tools and processes to gain better visibility into user activities and accounts across the organization. 
  • Enhance access management: Strengthen access controls to ensure only authorized individuals can access sensitive systems and data.
  • Improve training and policies: Educate staff on the importance of logging out of shared systems and enforce policies to minimize unauthorized access.
  • Review compliance regularly: Conduct frequent audits to ensure access practices align with regulatory requirements and internal security standards.

By focusing on these areas, your IT team can mitigate the risks associated with limited visibility and ensure your healthcare organization remains compliant and secure—avoiding hefty HIPAA fines and potential data loss that don’t just harm the organization, but can also affect patients.

7. Automation adoption is high, but there’s an appetite for more

Out of a list of network and SaaS-related activities, an average of 68% were cited as either mostly or completely automated according to our healthcare IT respondents—a figure that’s fairly on par with their peers from other industries.

The top automated activities are all SaaS-related, including SaaS license expense management, SaaS application inventory management, and employee off-boarding lifecycle of SaaS tools.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing the top automated tasks within healthcare IT

Despite this seemingly significant adoption rate of automation, 52% of the same group of healthcare IT professionals responded “programming and automation” when asked what network-related activities they’d like to be doing but aren’t.

The primary reason? Lack of budget. 

For IT leaders, this readiness to adopt presents an opportunity to invest more in automation, which will ultimately boost productivity and allow your team to focus more on strategic tasks. It’s an opportunity to advance patient care in a digitally-enabled environment that relies less on manual processes, improves compliance, and enhances the overall efficiency of your IT team.

8. The IT talent gap continues to widen in healthcare

The shortage of IT talent across industries is not a new issue, but it is a significant hurdle for businesses experiencing increasing demands for digital innovation and a concurrently growing skills gap. The healthcare industry isn’t immune to this, with 56% of survey respondents citing a shortage of skilled IT professionals as a top challenge—even higher than the overall survey average.

Healthcare IT trends chart showing top challenges for IT departments: the top challenge is shortage of skilled professionals

The root cause of this talent shortage is complex. First, the evolution of technologies like cloud computing and AI mean the way we do business is changing. The pace of these technological advancements is, in some cases, faster than our ability to train people to manage them at scale. Many IT pros lack the time and resources to upskill at work, and the IT sector faces high turnover rates as it is. 

While this gap may hinder the healthcare sector’s ability to innovate and adapt to new technologies, there are remedies. Establishing relationships with healthcare IT MSPs that understand the nuances and complexities of the industry can help your IT team navigate growing end-user requests, automate network-related activities, and access specialized talent when it’s needed most.

9. Network operations security remains top of mind for healthcare ITs

From medical records to financial information, social security numbers, and address information, healthcare organizations are trusted with a treasure trove of highly sensitive patient information. Unfortunately, this makes healthcare a tempting target for cybercriminals. Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported a 93% increase in large, healthcare-related security breaches between 2018 and 2022. This is why network security remains top of mind for healthcare IT teams. 

In our survey, healthcare IT professionals identified data loss prevention tools (51%), access to control/moderation tools (48%), and anomaly detection tools (47%) as the most commonly used or considered network security options for the coming year. These tools highlight the importance of safeguarding patient data by preventing unauthorized access, monitoring network activity for unusual behavior, and managing who has access to critical systems.

Interestingly, network observability tools and wireless security tools, which are crucial for detecting network issues and securing wireless communications, are among the least utilized by healthcare IT teams. This contrasts with their non-healthcare peers, who rank these tools much higher in use. This suggests a potential gap in the adoption of comprehensive security measures that could help healthcare IT teams better monitor and secure their networks. Investing in these areas may significantly enhance the security posture of your organization and provide better protection for sensitive patient data.

A snapshot into our survey audience 

The 2024 IT Trends Report surveyed 2,000+ IT professionals to explore the current IT trends shaping their evolving roles and departments. Of these respondents, 8% (160 individuals) were from the healthcare industry, providing insights into the ongoing challenges experienced by healthcare IT professionals in comparison to their peers.

Here’s a breakdown of our healthcare respondents’ demographics:

  • Country of residence:
    • 95% reside in the United States
    • 3% reside in Canada
    • 1% reside in the United Kingdom 
  • Company size:
    • 10% work at companies with 5,000+ employees
    • 33% work at companies with 1,001 – 5,000 employees 
    • 39% work at companies with 51 – 1,000 employees 
    • 10% work at companies with 251 – 500 employees
    • 9% work at companies with 1 – 250 employees 
  • Number of IT Ops and ITSM roles within their organization: 
    • 10% have 50+ on their IT team 
    • 62% have 21–50 on their IT team
    • 41% have between 11–20 on their IT team
    • 11% have between 6–10 on their IT team
    • 5% have between 1–5 on their IT team 
  • Role of the respondent: 
    • 51% identified as an IT or Operations Manager
    • 23% identified as a VP or Director
    • 12% identified as a CEO/CIO/CTO/COO 
    • 13% identified as a User 

Discover more healthcare IT trends in the full report

Healthcare IT is a rapidly evolving field, and understanding these trends is essential for planning and strategy. Download your copy of the full report to see how healthcare stacks up to other industries and learn more about what’s on the horizon for 2024 IT Trends.

It trends 2024: industry report

Planning for the year ahead?

Find out how IT professionals are managing day-to-day operations, dealing with talent shortages, and preparing for future needs.

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