Hospital chief information officers plan to make electronic health records, population health applications and digital healthcare tools their biggest investment priorities over the next three years, says a new survey by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and KPMG LLP.

But healthcare CIOs also have lots of work to do in developing and launching a system-wide digital technology strategy.

The survey of 112 hospital CIOs found that 38% are making electronic health records integration their top spending priority, followed by accountable care (population health technology) and consumer, clinical and operational analytics at 21% and 16%, respectively. Other technology spending priorities for hospital CIOs include virtual/telehealth technology enhancements at 13%, revenue cycle systems and replacement at 7% and enterprise resource planning systems at 6%.

“Meaningful use, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and new payment models have encouraged healthcare providers to invest in electronic health records but some didn’t mesh with how doctors and nurses work,” says KPMG advisory managing director Ralph Fargnoli.  “A majority of doctors are dissatisfied with electronic health records systems. We need to make these systems secure, easier to use and interoperable across the continuum of care to effectively treat patients and uncover where quality and efficiency can be improved.”

The survey found more than three-fourths (80%) of hospital CIOs believe they have a growing strategic role in their organization, but many hospitals and health systems apparently still lack a clear digital healthcare strategy. Only 50% of hospital CIOs have a clear digital business strategy and vision and only 39% of CIOs are currently working on a digital healthcare strategy.

To better deploy more universal health systems and digital technology that include more analytics, telehealth and remote patient monitoring, more CIOs plan on investing in cloud computing.

About one quarter of all respondents noted their organizations were implementing or investing in cloud computing infrastructure such as servers, storage and data centers. Other key functions for the cloud among the respondents include electronic health records (10%), enterprise software systems (10%) and disaster recovery (8%).

The biggest challenges and concerns with cloud computing were regarding data loss/privacy, applications not being fully optimized with the cloud and integration with existing architecture, according to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of a computer hard drive.

Despite the push for more electronic health records, many hospitals will have to juggle spending priorities with their current budget. Budget plans for healthcare CIOs are likely to remain the same among 63% of respondents for the next 12 months and for 44% during the next two years. For the next 12 months, 18% of respondents expect higher spending compared to 36% of CIOs that expect an increase in operating budgets during the next two years.