Health care is in the midst of unprecedented change. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the shift to electronic medical records (EMR), and the country’s increased focus on wellness have shaken up the industry, leading to more accessibility for patients, widespread data sharing, and greater dependency on cloud technology.
Yet health care continues to be one of the most outdated industries when it comes to IT, making it difficult for health care IT managers and directors to find the best technology for their needs.
There’s already been a shift from buying to leasing, as the rate of technology innovation leads to more turnover. What other trends can you expect to play a role in your next technology investment? Here are three of the biggest concerns to think about before your next health care IT purchase.
Medical records are even more valuable to hackers than credit card numbers, so attacks on health care facilities are unlikely to slow. This year’s ransomware attack on Kansas Heart Hospital locked up patient data until the hospital paid to get it back. Another hacker accessed over 12,000 files at a New Mexico hospital. With 253 health care companies across the United States reporting a data breach within the past year (and over 112 million health records compromised), data security continues to demand vigilant attention.
But security concerns expand into the realm of data maintenance as well. Leaving data improperly classified or allowing “dark data” to grow not only strains your system, but increases the chance of security breaches and HIPAA non-compliance. It’s important to regularly assess your network inside and out to eliminate unneeded data, back up critical systems, and patch any holes that may turn into vulnerabilities.
Bottom line? Vet the protections embedded in every piece of hardware and software you’re considering purchasing, and make sure they line up with your cybersecurity posture.
Although security is the more obvious concern, accessibility to data is just as important. If a hospital can’t call up a patient’s medical record listing allergies or other potential complications, that can be the difference between life and death. Blackouts, system crashes, and ransomware attacks can’t stand in the way of accessing this critical data.
Many organizations are tapping colocation, a cheaper, more manageable data center option for facilities whose prime function is saving lives, not backing up data. Many colocation centers are equipped with HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery, making them a solid option for health care organizations.
In addition, the shifting preferences and treatment options available to patients require new technologies. Millennials are looking for immediacy, transparency, and flexibility in health care. This has driven many providers to offer patient portals and apps that allow users to browse doctor price, availability, insurance coverage, and specialization. Additionally, many patients have embraced telehealth and mobile health, and expect doctors and nurses to be available via internet, texting, or app.
Not only are hospitals sharing data internally, but in 2015 about 40 percent of health care providers shared data externally, and 60 percent shared data with patients.
Crunching big data through IBM’s Watson, for example, has enabled some doctors to deliver better patient-specific cancer treatment plans and faster than before. Big data analytics also allows health care providers to track data patterns in particular communities to cut down on unnecessary spending and improve patient outcomes, or even to automate processes like scheduling.
If you’re not already taking advantage of the data your organization has on hand, seek out solutions that can uncover new efficiencies, insights, and improvements.
Health care IT and you
While these three trends are driving health care technology choices, choosing the best solution for your organization’s specific needs is a tall order. That’s why we launched SHI’s Healthcare IT Exchange – to serve as a single stop for the most current information about health care solutions and the best advice for making IT strategy and design decisions. As health care policies and regulations continue to evolve, you can expect your IT and security needs to mature as well. And SHI’s Healthcare IT Exchange will be there to help along the way.