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Nearly 80% of Healthcare Execs Investing More in Big Data, AI

Healthcare data executives are upping their investments in big data analytics and artificial intelligence, but many are still struggling to overcome organizational resistance.

Nearly 80% of healthcare executives are investing more in big data, AI

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- Seventy-seven percent of healthcare executives reported that their organizations are accelerating investments in big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), citing disruptive forces and industry competitors as major motivators for increased spending, a cross-industry survey from NewVantage Partners revealed.

However, nearly 80 percent of data analytics leaders said their organizations still struggle with big data analytics and AI adoption, with 92.5 percent naming cultural and organizational resistance as major barriers.

The 2019 version of the survey represented executives from nearly 65 companies, including United Health, Aetna, and CVS Health. Healthcare organizations participated in this year’s survey at higher rates than in previous years, NewVantage noted.

“Healthcare firms are well represented this year – a sharp uptick from previous years. These are businesses that are undergoing rapid transformation—data rich, but often less data-mature,” the report stated.  

“This surge in participation highlights the rising priority of big data and AI within healthcare, and the increasing data maturity of healthcare firms.”

READ MORE: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Basics Lead Top 10 Stories of 2018

NewVantage also surveyed analytics executives from financial services and life insurance companies, as well as a handful of additional firms.

Most healthcare executives reported an increase in AI and big data investment, and nearly 80 percent of healthcare participants also reported a greater urgency to invest in advanced analytics capabilities.

When asked to identify the principal driver of these investments, 91 percent of respondents from all sectors said business transformation, agility, and competition were spurring additional spending, while just 4.8 percent named cost savings as the driving factor.

Among healthcare respondents, concerns over disruptive forces and competitors were a major motivator for investment, with 78.6 percent citing this as their main reason for increased spending.

“The findings reinforce the view that companies are accelerating their investments in big data and AI to stave off competition and bring greater agility to their own firms,” the report said.

READ MORE: Big Data to See Explosive Growth, Challenging Healthcare Organizations

“Motivated by a fear of disruption, firms are accelerating the pace and urgency with which they undertake big data and AI initiatives.”

The survey also sought to identify which technology capabilities executives are focusing on the most. Across all industries, AI and machine learning proved to be the priority for investment, with over 96 percent of executives saying their organizations are spending more on these solutions.

Cloud computing is also a major area of focus, with 90.5 percent of executives reporting increased spending in this domain.

While blockchain has emerged as an innovative solution to big data challenges, only a small number of healthcare organizations reported increased investments in the technology.

“Surprisingly, investment in blockchain has yet to demonstrate momentum, even as blockchain remains highly touted as a transformative technology,” the report said.

READ MORE: Arguing the Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

“Though there has been considerable discussion regarding the applicability of blockchain within healthcare, the number of firms reporting investment in blockchain was sharply lower among healthcare firms (28.6 percent) in comparison to financial services firms (45.2 percent).”

While increased investment in AI and big data is a positive step, the survey found that many entities still face significant challenges when it comes to innovative analytics.

The report revealed that the amount of organizations who saw measurable results from AI and big data decreased by over ten percent, dropping from 73.2 percent in 2018 to 62.2 percent in 2019.

Additionally, 77 percent of executives said they struggle with adoption of AI and big data initiatives in their organizations.

When asked about barriers to AI and big data analytics success, executives cited multiple factors.

Ninety-five percent of cited problems were related to cultural and organizational issues. Sixty-nine percent of participants said they have yet to create a data-driven culture within their organizations, and just over half of companies said they don’t treat data as a business asset.

“There is much work yet to be done to accelerate business transformation, and the biggest needs would seem to correspond to people and process issues – not technology,” the report stated.

“Thinking about data as an asset is a new phenomenon for most companies. Traditional businesses were not data-driven in the sense that emerging digital competitors are.”

To keep pace with these changes, many organizations have appointed Chief Data Officers to maintain primary responsibility for data initiatives.

However, among healthcare executives, 42.9 percent reported that there was no single point of accountability for data within their entities, which could stall innovation.

“As firms strive to become data-driven and as their investments in big data/AI increase, the Chief Data Officer role remains in flux – nascent, too often ill-defined, and consequently ill-equipped to drive their organizations forward. This deserves greater attention and support,” the report said.

Big data and AI could offer innovative solutions for many of healthcare’s most pressing issues, but achieving success will require a change in organizational culture.

“As data volumes and data sources proliferate at greater and greater rates, companies have accelerated their investment in big data and AI initiatives,” the report concluded.

“Big data and artificial intelligence are enabling capabilities which hold the potential for companies to reach new customers and better serve the customers they have – if deployed creatively, wisely, and effectively.”

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