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Shining a Light on the Biggest Healthcare IT Challenges

Larry Alton, Writer, LarryAlton.com
| Posted at 2:58 PM by ISACA News | Category: Risk Management | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Larry AltonHealthcare has experienced significant modernization and is now closely intertwined with IT. But as the industry changes and marketplace demands evolve, new challenges emerge. Understanding how to address these challenges is paramount to the future success of healthcare organizations and their stakeholders.

Five healthcare IT challenges the industry is facing
What used to be a small intersection is now a fully developed relationship. It’s nearly impossible to understand the current or future state of healthcare without looking at IT and the role it is playing.

Even with all of the good things that are happening, there are some challenges, hurdles, and points of friction that must be dealt with and overcome. Let’s highlight a few of the more significant ones you should know about.

1. Data security
Data breaches are, unfortunately, a part of modern life. As more and more data is created and stored online, hackers will continue to go for valuable information. Because of the privacy associated with patient data, healthcare providers are often primary targets.

The challenge moving forward is for organizations to be more protective of their data, without adding unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. Better access control and simplified reporting will play a key role.

2. Network integration issues
On the business side of healthcare, there are plenty of mergers and acquisitions. Unfortunately, they often lead to network integration issues. The biggest challenge involves blind spots.

“Blind spots are areas where IT does not have complete visibility into what is happening on the network or how applications are behaving,” explains Keith Bromley of Ixia. “Mergers between IT systems for any organization, especially healthcare systems, take time. The problem is that patients and doctors do not have time to wait. Electronic medical records (EMR) must be available at all times, for all patients.”

Figuring out a way to smooth over these transitional points and prevent blind spots from occurring will be a key focus in the months and years ahead.

3. Remote patient care
The latest research suggests that 71 percent of all healthcare providers use telehealth or telemedicine tools to connect with patients. Considering that just half of healthcare providers were using telemedicine solutions and services in 2014, this represents a rather steep increase in adoption. The expectation is that close to 100 percent of providers will be using solutions like these by as early as 2021.

But there are still some distinct challenges. One such challenge is the issue of helping patients get the care they need after leaving the direct care of the healthcare provider.

“As a physician, I know that medicine is important to people’s health, but the vast majority of what determines a person’s health is not medicine, it’s the ability to take care of themselves, live well, manage disease, and give care to others outside the doctor’s office,” says Stacy Lindau, MD, who has worked closely with Rush University Medical Center to incorporate the NowPow platform to help them connect with patients after they leave.

The more sophisticated platforms like these become, the more well-rounded patient care will become.

4. HIPAA compliance
Whereas cybersecurity and strict BYOD policies are important for businesses in every industry, issues like these are even more challenging in healthcare. HIPAA laws are very strict on issues like unlawful disclosure of private patient information, and any unintentional mishaps can result in huge fines and significant reputational damage.

Having a plan in place for dealing with ransomware is crucial for healthcare organizations of all sizes. While encryption and backup storage are important, they may not be enough. Organizations that consult with cybersecurity experts specializing in HIPAA laws will see the biggest benefits.

5. Consumerization of medicine
“A big area of interest for healthcare institutions is the consumerization trend in which information is being collected and made available to mobile and web-based devices. For instance, hospitals are now embracing bring your own device (BYOD) for healthcare professionals and support the use of patient accessible Wi-Fi,” Bromley explains.

As consumerization increases, it’ll be important for healthcare organizations to choose the right technologies and use them in the appropriate ways. A failure to invest in the best solutions for the application will bog organizations down and create additional friction that hurts the patient experience (not to mention the practitioner’s experience).

Putting it all together
Healthcare innovation happens at a startling pace. From pharmaceuticals to health procedures, changes are occurring around the clock. From an administrative perspective, however, few areas are more important than successfully managing and governing the technology that enables the innovation. As IT progresses, so will the healthcare industry.

For IT professionals, understanding this relationship will help you get a firmer grasp why certain developments are taking place and what direction the industry is headed in the future.

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