Sep 15, 2021
As healthcare teams continue to seek the best ways to rapidly respond to patient need —both in person and virtually— the reliance on solutions in areas like telehealth, cybersecurity, and cloud-based data storage continues to grow. Here are some key ways that healthcare CIOs and leadership can ensure that their organizations are prepared for the continued digital transformation of the healthcare industry.
Today, there’s more to consider than basic HIPAA compliance as more patient data and other critical information and operation moves to the cloud. Incidents of cybercrime were reported at record levels in 2020—with healthcare systems and hospitals becoming prime targets for an increased number of ransomware and other cyberattacks. These security breaches put completely brought IT system operations to a halt and disrupting critical access to systems needed to treat patients.
In one example, in October 2020, the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM) was hit by a particularly malicious and costly cyberattack. As a result, employees within the medical center couldn’t access even the most basic information, like when patients were scheduled for appointments, or other vital data, like electronic health records (EHRs). Payroll operations were even brought to a complete stop.
As a result, critical procedures and surgeries, including radiation treatments for cancer patients, were postponed. Even though UVM didn’t pay the cybercriminals a ransom, they were still lost close to $50 million in estimated revenue and IT recovery costs.
UVM was not alone. According to a 2020 survey of CIOs by KPMG, 35% of healthcare organizations saw an “increase in security or cyber incidents” as a result of employees working from home. In the same study, cybersecurity was also reported to be the most in-demand professional IT skill among healthcare clients.
With the increased levels of remote access to healthcare data, healthcare teams are more vulnerable than ever. This means it is critical that everyone within these organizations is educated on best practices for cybersecurity and implement them. IT administrators should be vetting applications and cloud providers for proper security certifications and standards and invest in IT partners with healthcare-specific security expertise.
Faced with the realities of COVID-19, regulatory parties amended restrictions on telehealth to make it easier for providers to minimize disruption to safe patient care over the past year. This also made it easier for patients with chronic illnesses to receive managed care for much lower costs. Now that more healthcare providers than ever have invested in the capabilities to offer remote health services, patients will likely continue to expect the convenience and access to healthcare that these platforms provide.
In fact, even now that telehealth utilization has stabilized in comparison to usage rates at the height of the pandemic, a study by McKinsey & Company reveals that, across all specialties, outpatient visits occurring via telehealth are still 38 times more frequent in the first quarter of this year than they were before the pandemic. The study also reports that about 40% of surveyed healthcare consumers believe they will continue to use telehealth models in the future—an increase from 11% using virtual care prior to COVID-19.
This means, that in order to meet the demand for expected levels of care and patient service, healthcare teams should invest in a technology infrastructure that allows for the secure delivery of hybrid health care, making it possible to replace some types of previously in-person care, like follow-ups and managed care, the option for virtual visits. This requires IT managers to invest in better data integration, data storage, and more secure IT infrastructure going forward
As telehealth becomes a more frequent norm, the need to record patient data virtually is ever-present. This means that top EHR providers, like Epic and Meditech, will need to continue to advance capabilities as well. This includes the integration of voice assistant and language processing tools, like Amazon Alexa. For providers, this will mean making notes to a patient’s chart without the need for clicks or keystrokes. EHRs will also rely on more cloud-based models to allow for more mobile and instant capabilities to record and access patient data, even via mobile devices.
In the end, the rise in telehealth utilization and other transformations accelerated by COVID-19 mean that efficient healthcare operations are digital and cloud-based at their core. The online experience, or “digital front door” is the new waiting room for healthcare consumers. To maximize efficiency, this also means that the less paper used, the better. IT teams should work with all levels of healthcare teams to identify where paper-based records and documentation can be converted to “digital first” processes, and also possibly consider utilizing a document management provider to ensure that remaining print operations are efficient and securely managed. Secure and certified cloud data storage providers can also help digitalize patient records.
Healthcare professionals do some of society’s most vital and challenging work. As healthcare models for service, data, and operations require increasingly sophisticated IT infrastructure, 51% of healthcare CIOs surveyed in 2020 plan for increased use of managed IT services.
At Milner, we have decades of experience working with small and mid-market healthcare organizations. We understand that there is no room for error when it comes to the access and security of information needed to make quick and efficient decisions for your patients. Our healthcare clients trust us to provide full-service technology solutions that work best for their IT and operations needs, including effective, user-friendly systems for employees and patients, reliable and secure messaging software, guaranteed HIPAA compliance, cybersecurity, routine IT maintenance and troubleshooting, 24/7 helpdesk, and KNO2 technology to securely exchange patient information between providers, and even secure document management services.