Like any other business, healthcare is seeing a technical revolution. New networking technology is changing the way physicians and caregivers practice medicine. These changes are largely for the better, making healthcare more cost-effective and helping practitioners access medical data faster than ever before. Of course, with new technology come new challenges. Developing a secure, reliable IT network for any medical practice can be challenging, unless you understand the IT issues that are unique to medicine and how to address them.
Demand is growing for healthcare IT. According to Grand View Research, the global healthcare IT market is anticipated to reach $104.5 billion by 2020. What is fueling IT healthcare are trends such as the impact of the Affordable Care Act, which has added 117,000 jobs to the healthcare industry in the first three quarters of 2015. The number of patients needing home healthcare also has reached 4.7 million in the United States, which is also fueling healthcare IT for remote data access solutions. Electronic medical records (EMRs) are expected to drive sales of $26.72 billion by 2020, and most of that demand is in integrating information systems using new strategies such as cloud computing.
Clearly, healthcare providers are seeing more benefits from the latest information technology. IT is helping hospitals, clinics, and medical practices overcome many of the problems they have had in the past.
EMRs Improve the Business of HealthcareThe move to EMRs is the foundation for automating medical practice. EMRs contain the complete medical history of a patient, making it easier to find medical records such as allergic reactions, immunizations, and prior treatment without relying on paper files, and without fear of missing important records. Patient record-keeping is more accurate, more efficient, and most importantly, more accessible. Having a single, secure data repository for healthcare records also makes it easier to share information for consultation and to streamline insurance claims and billing.
Of course, to support EMRs you need IT infrastructure. You need secure data stores that are HIPAA-compliant for patient privacy, as well as patient management software to track patient records. The EMR system needs to integrate with accounting and billing management systems, as well as external systems to securely share data with insurance carriers, pharmacies, clinics, and other healthcare services.
All of that means you need a secure and reliable computing network. Whether you are running a large hospital or small family practice, you need to have data access when and where you need it. In today’s healthcare operations, IT networks typically include on-premise servers and workstations, secure telecommunications and Internet access, secure cloud computing software and data stores, and remote data access by healthcare staff.
Building the right network infrastructure that can deliver the right information across multiple platforms takes architectural and systems management expertise that will likely be too expensive to hire as dedicated staff. It’s often more practical to get support from a good IT support service that understands the unique demands of healthcare computing.
Better Treatment with Mobile Data AccessMobile computing technology is revolutionizing patient care. Doctors can access digitized EMRs using wireless devices such as laptops or tablets in the consulting room, the operating room, or anywhere. Rather than taking paper notes and transcribing them into medical records, doctors now access and enter patient notes directly into the system. And they can access external data such as medical indications, pharmaceutical data, and treatment information using their handheld devices.
To take advantage of mobile technology requires a secure wireless infrastructure. Installing reliable networks in a medical office presents unique challenges. Medical equipment can cause interference so wireless access points have to properly tuned and place. Data also has to be secured using encryption or other strategies for regulatory compliance.
In addition, wireless devices have to be properly configured and integrated to access secure medical records. This means creating levels of security, authentication, and encryption so confidential data isn’t accessed by unauthorized users, which would violate HIPAA regulations. Like any business, physicians’ offices also need to enforce bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies for practitioners who want to use their own handheld devices.
Integrated EfficiencyThen there is systems integration. Secure data sharing is essential to managing an effective medical practice, and that requires integrating data and applications inside the practice, with cloud resources, and with third parties. EMRs, for example, need to be integrated into accounting, billing, and remote insurance systems.
With paper processes, administrators have to match treatment to codes and then determine which codes can be claimed on health insurance. Automating the system simplifies everything. Treatment can automatically be assessed for insurance payments in advance. And linking medical records to insurance information makes billing more accurate, and more timely. Medical billing data also can be sent to insurance underwriters for faster approval and processing. The result is that treatment and payment are more efficient and more accurate than ever before.
Keeping pace with the latest medical breakthroughs is hard enough without having to worry about the latest technology. No matter how large your healthcare operation, you can always benefit from a specialist to make your operation more efficient. Understanding how to build the right wireless infrastructure, integrate secure cloud resources, address security issues for regulatory compliance are best left to experts. Hiring an IT support specialist to help you make the most of emerging IT technology may be the best investment you ever make for your practice and your patients.
How do you currently manage your IT within your healthcare practice?