There are few industries more in need of improved adoption of information technology systems than the field of health and medical. This industry can have wider implications resulting from IT success or failure span far beyond that of the financial (although that too is of great importance). In some cases, the health and lives of patients in both the public and private sector can be at play. The IT discrepancies between one practice or facility and the next are staggering, with some on the cutting edge of tech while others remain in the dark ages. Your business or organization should ensure that it falls in favor of the former.
Today, MAKE IT recommends that you review the following concerns to help make sure that you receive a clean bill of health when it comes to healthcare information technology.
Three IT Concerns Health & Medical Businesses and Organizations Need to Address Today
Protecting Against the Threat of Cyber-Attacks
No industry has been impacted by the newest wave of cyber-attacks quite like the medical field. Ransomware, in particular has hit the healthcare industry the hardest. With the threat of lost or leaked patient records and other forms of sensitive data, patient health is put at risk and potential for legal liability concerns grow. What can you do?
For starters, have your IT provider outline what steps they’ve done to ensure your systems have been protected from these types of threats. In the case that you’re not completely satisfied with that answer, look contract an outside IT firm to perform a complete audit of your cybersecurity systems. Either way, you may want to bring in an IT security consultant to conduct comprehensive cybersecurity training for your medical office and healthcare facility staff as a large number of these cyber-attacks use social engineering to infect the IT systems.
Even if you plan to engage an IT consulting firm to perform an audit, you can act NOW. An attack can happen at any moment; you don’t want to wait one minute for something that can be referenced immediately. Start with the basics by ensuring that your existing antivirus/antimalware programs are installed and configured correctly and that they are up to date. Next, ensure to back up your files and patient records using a hybrid system that includes either an offsite backup location, or the cloud. Another low cost item that people can easily overlook is to remove local administrator and especially Windows Domain Administrator permissions from regular day-to-day user accounts. This step is usually met with derision from some users and IT staff due to the extra steps required to install software and modify systems settings but this step greatly reduces to potential impact of an infection by restricting the privileges of any processes launched as the user. Lastly, take a look at these cybersecurity tips for law firms, an industry that also has a lot at stake in the hack-heavy environment of today.
Abiding by Regulations Regarding Patient Data Privacy
In addition to covering your bases when it comes to confidential information as it applies to cybersecurity, you also need to consider local, federal, and industry regulations.
There are detailed privacy laws and regulations surrounding patient record rights. These also apply to how providers and practitioners share patient information. Some of your physicians and administrators may not be aware of the ins and outs, and may violate these regulations without knowing it. While necessary, these measures place a burden on the fluidity of data communications, making it more difficult to adopt new technologies that intend to improve data flow. These regulations apply both to current information as well as the management of backup media and the usage of cloud storage.
Thus, regulatory compliance is a key concern for any healthcare IT solution. Technology that allows communication of patient information will require that the channel be properly secured to protect confidentiality. The process becomes more complicated when data is shared across country, state, or provincial borders, a concern for any practice that has international or “remote” patients. Data protection and legislation differs significantly between regions. For instance, there are unique policies in the European Union on cross-border healthcare to ensure specific standards are met in regards to the safe delivery of patient (or other medical) data between Canada and the EU. Your IT solution must consider every nuance that applies to medical data, online communication systems included.
Building a Practitioner-Friendly Platform
If the primary users do not adopt your software platform it will be a waste of resources. Medical practitioners and support staff must be presented with a workable model that applies to their day to day. Simply put, user experience (UX) is paramount.
Given that every practice is unique, a custom software solution usually is the best way forward. But building a great healthcare based software solution with UX in mind isn’t that easy. FORBES notes the five key things that prevent technology adoption in healthcare. Included, are physician concerns regarding technology slowing down their process, and a strong belief that technology is impersonal. Both of these are perceptions that can be abated with agile, cross-functional team software development that makes physicians and key staff a part of the ideation process.
Once the software project adapts, evolves, and reaches fruition, training becomes the priority. A training program must be put in place that is all-inclusive (leave no-one in the hierarchy out), relevant, collaborative, social, mobile (for remote employees), and ongoing to account for new developments. Follow these steps to ensure optimal adoption of your new software platform, by your entire healthcare staff.
For IT services for your health and medical business/practice, including cybersecurity audits, software development, data regulatory compliance, IT training, and more, contact MAKE IT. We have broad experience in system design and IT architecture for Health Services at the provincial level.