Reliance on computer technology is on the rise, especially in healthcare. Physicians’ offices, clinics, and hospitals are digitizing patient records and adopting new best practices built around data stored in enterprise systems and the cloud. And like all businesses, healthcare and medical facilities are striving to do more with less in the data center. Unfortunately, with every new technology comes a demand for new expertise.
According to IDC healthcare IT budgets are on the rise. Spending is up an average of 40 percent as healthcare providers start to do more with electronic medical records (EMRs) and add to healthcare IT (HIT) operations.
Much of that spending is going into new integration and analytics capacity; those areas of IT where any changes need careful scrutiny and planning:
- While 50 percent of spending is going into traditional software, 18 percent is going into software-as-a-service (SaaS), and 24 percent is going into managed hosting projects with cloud providers.
- The number of HIT professionals comfortable with cloud computing has grown from 30 percent in 2014 to 41.5 percent in 2015, with security and compliance remaining as the major obstacles to cloud adoption.
- Hospitals are spending more on analytics, patient engagement, customer relationship management (CRM), and security.
These are all strategic areas where healthcare providers are looking for new ways to take advantage of emerging technology, and areas where HIT departments lack expertise and resources. These are the areas of computing where there are gaps between demand and available resources.
Cybersecurity and Compliance
With more adoption of cloud computing, there is greater concern about data security and regulatory compliance. Security and compliance go hand in hand since most HIT departments are focused on protecting EMRs per the security regulations spelled out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which covers patient privacy.
More data, including EMRs, is migrating to the cloud to facilitate access and collaboration, so security also is outsourced along with computing resources. HIT departments have to work with third-party providers to not only host the data but ensure it’s secure and data management is compliant.
Smart HIT departments are working with experts in cloud computing and security who stay current with the latest technologies as well as government regulations. By outsourcing EMR data storage and access, they are transferring responsibility to the cloud service company so ensuring they have tight control over security and compliance is essential.
In addition to securing data from hackers, healthcare facilities also need to have disaster recovery strategies in place. In the event of a fire, flood, or natural disaster, or even a malicious attack that compromises the data center, healthcare providers need to be able to recover data quickly and efficiently. Partnering with a service company that provides secure data backup and recovery strategy alleviates concerns about potential data loss.
More Mobile Data Access
Mobile computing is playing a larger role in healthcare. Doctors and nurses are using tablets and laptops to provide to access patient records, which requires more wireless networking and wireless data security. As healthcare professionals come to rely on handheld devices for both patient care and remote data access, hospitals need to expand their wireless networking capacity to provide more bandwidth and greater security.
Wireless networking is a specialized field, requiring unique power considerations, careful antenna placement to minimize interference, and more. In addition, HIT managers need to be concerned with provisioning handheld devices, including managing device security, software updates, and malware protection, most of which will have to be handled over-the-air using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) strategy. And then there is the added challenge of supporting bring your own device (BYOD).
Mobile computing experts can assist with wireless networking design and deployment, including authentication and data encryption strategies to protect sensitive data sent over wireless networks.
Integration and Analytics
The generation of more data requires more data integration. In addition to EMRs, hospitals are relying in more automation to manage supplies, staffing, equipment, and other aspects of day-to-day operations. More automation means more integration to improve both patient care and operations.
For example, the boom in CRM for healthcare is enabling new ways for patients and physicians to communicate. Most patient referrals start with online search engine to find a provider or learn more about a physician or practice. From there, much of the interaction is electronic, including appointment scheduling, patient questionnaires, and satisfaction surveys. CRM systems need to be integrated into various aspects of the care facility from admissions through treatment to administration and billing.
Data integration also enables new possibilities for analytics. Big data is playing a bigger role in healthcare because of its positive impact on patient care. For example, big data use cases are being developed to assess patient readmission, identifying patients at greater risk for disease, or hospital protocols and procedures that need to be changed for better patient outcomes. With the right data sources, big data analytics can be applied to everything from reducing infection to reducing the cost of supplies to streamlining insurance claims.
So as demand for new technology expands for healthcare, so does demand for new expertise. Cloud computing, data security, wireless networking, CRM, analytics, and other solutions are demonstrating tremendous value in healthcare, but each requires its own expertise. That’s why healthcare providers are partnering with third party experts like NSI who bring turnkey expertise and a comprehensive understanding of their unique computing requirements.