Hospitals and other health care providers expect to invest extra money in 2024 on technology — cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, virtual care and more.

Nearly half of providers anticipate their IT budgets to “moderately” or “significantly” increase next year compared with this year, according to a new report from consulting firm Guidehouse, based on a survey of nearly 150 health system executives.

Why so? Most of the leaders said they want to increase operational efficiency and satisfaction for patients and providers alike.

Providers see cybersecurity and electronic health records updates as their highest priorities.

Why it matters: Many providers see a need for more investment in technology because of growing demands for cybersecurity or to keep up with their peers on AI capabilities. Some see tech as a solution to problems, such as burnout or inefficient records systems.

But it also comes as the industry is stretched financially. Health systems have spent most of the government cash from the pandemic and say reimbursement rates are often not keeping up with rising costs.

This is where we explore the ideas and innovators shaping health care.

People who are afraid of needles have a new tool to ease their fears. The Smileyscope, a virtual reality device that takes users on an underwater adventure to distract them during a medical procedure, has won FDA approval, MIT Technology Review reported.

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Today on our Pulse Check podcast, host Katherine Ellen Foley talks with POLITICO White House correspondent Adam Cancryn about former President Donald Trump’s call to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a move the Biden administration views as a political gift ahead of the 2024 election.

AI’s helping doctors do their jobs. It also shows promise as a training tool.

How so? Covera Health, a diagnostic tech company, develops AI tools that provide radiologists with performance feedback.

That solves a longstanding problem: Radiologists have few ways to track their performance, said Dr. Aaron Friedkin, Covera Health’s president and a radiologist.

“When I was in practice, I never knew how good I was,” he said. “There’s no benchmark, and that’s what we’re trying to create.”

Working with insurers, Covera Health’s tech could make it easier to tie payment to care quality, Friedkin said.

Why it matters: Radiology was an early pioneer for AI in health care.

Existing systems trained on the correct reading of millions of scans are already in use, helping aid diagnoses.

Improved diagnoses help speed treatment and might already be saving payers money.

In September, President Joe Biden signed a law to bolster the nation’s organ donation system by putting management of the system out for bid. The law is also giving innovators a boost.

How so? Organ transplant innovators hope an open bidding process will create new opportunities for government contracts and subcontracts. The current contractor, the United Network for Organ Sharing, has run the system for 40 years.

Tristan and Jordan Mace, founders of the nonprofit organization Valeos, are building a transplant data network with a larger and higher-quality pool of data than currently exists.

The aim is to improve all aspects of the transplant process — a system plagued by waste — from patient organ candidacy to transplant outcomes.

Stakeholders, such as organ transplant centers, patients, donors, donor families, laboratories and organ procurement organizations, can voluntarily submit data to the Valeos system. Those stakeholders stand to benefit from access to a large pool of data stripped of personal information.

“There is so much research right now that is unfortunately in a walled garden that isn’t being collaborated across health systems,” Jordan told Erin.

Valeos is partnering with Oracle Health on the project.

Why it matters: Modernizing the organ transplant system is a personal mission for the Maces, who founded Valeos after four of Tristan’s organs failed in 2021 and he received a heart transplant.

So far, Tristan has been lucky. More than 100,000 people are on the national waitlist for an organ transplant, and federal officials say 6,000 people die each year waiting for a transplant.

Even so: The Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act is now law, but Congress has yet to fund the initiative, POLITICO’s Chelsea Cirruzzo reports.

HHS’ contract with the United Network for Organ Sharing expires at the end of March.

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