Small companies in the healthcare field must overcome the challenges of consistently offering their patients or customers important medical services and products while also meeting strict data and regulatory requirements unique to the industry. The smart application of IT is an essential element in meeting these formidable challenges.
The 5 major IT challenges for your healthcare business are summarized below.
Increasing Data Usage
The amount of data usage by healthcare businesses is rising and is projected to grow at a pace even higher that with other industries. Some of the factors for this growing amount of data include the more frequent use of advanced digital imaging technology, the requirement of electronic medical records, and the implementation of more complex healthcare applications. In addition, the use of telemedicine and mobile applications has increased data generation as well as the need for more secure storage. This increasing data usage requires companies to pay more attention to efficient applications and the proper handling of data.
Complying with HIPAA and HITECH
If your company is involved in any way with the use or management of personal health information (PHI) of individuals, you will have to follow stringent security guidelines to protect this sensitive information as required by HIPAA and HITECH.
(the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), was passed in 1996 to improve the nation’s health care system by mandating the standards-based implementation of security controls by all health care entities that create, store, or transmit health information.
(the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Its passage built upon the standards in HIPAA bringing additional compliance standards to organizations involved with health care. HITECH requires healthcare organizations and business associates to apply “meaningful use” of security technology to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected personal data. It also mandates audits of companies to ensure they are complying with HIPAA and HITECH.
It is important to note that complying with HIPAA/HITECH not only applies to healthcare companies such as physician offices, but to any business associates who work with this private information such as IT companies, billing services, attorneys, and accounting firms. Any failure to comply with these rules and guidelines can result in fines up to $1.5 million per calendar year as well as criminal prosecution in some cases.
Experts note that healthcare organizations have become a prime target for cybercriminals. In 2017 the healthcare and medical sector experienced more than 350 data breaches, which exposed nearly 5 million patient records. The main reason for these attacks is the sheer amount of sensitive personal and financial information that can be accessed via a data breach. By obtaining this information, hackers can make a fortune selling it on the black market or holding it for ransom. The impact of a successful cyberattack on your healthcare business could be devastating in terms of lost revenue and disrupted operations. It could also damage your company’s reputation, making it more difficult to maintain current customers and win new ones.
Despite these powerful negative consequences, too many medical professionals at healthcare companies are woefully unprepared to handle this growing threat. A recent comprehensive survey by Mediapro of more than 1,000 healthcare employees underlined the disconnect between the actual threat and the understanding of it in the medical sector.
Some of the most glaring takeaways from the survey were as follows:
- An astonishing 24% of physicians and other direct care providers had no awareness of the danger of phishing emails nor could they identify the common signs of malware.
- Healthcare workers showed “significantly less knowledge about cybersecurity best practices” than employees in other industries surveyed.
- 50% of physicians were found to be in the “risk” category, meaning that their actions made their organizations susceptible to a serious cybersecurity incident.
- A disturbing 18% of respondents demonstrated risky behavior involving storing or sharing patient data. Many found it acceptable to share patient data over personal emails or on insecure cloud-based platforms.
This worrisome trend of risky behavior and a lack of awareness about this threat will become an even greater challenge as the frequency of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks rises.
Insufficient Data Storage Options
With regulations demanding that healthcare organizations maintain patient records for longer periods of time, experts estimate that overall data storage needs will double every 18 months. Healthcare businesses have tried to meet this challenge by utilizing multi-tiered storage plans that include onsite, offsite, and virtual storage options, however, this has still not effectively met the growing data storage needs. Healthcare organizations also face the challenge of trying to manage the ever-growing amounts of data that exist in diverse medical environments as well as in a wide variety of IT assets.
Lack of Integrated Communication
Although the goal of the guidelines mandating healthcare organizations to use electronic health record (EHR) systems is to improve medical treatment, it has also complicated communication and the sharing of sensitive information among healthcare professionals. Medical businesses currently face the imposing challenge of trying to integrate communication across a wide variety of formats. There is currently no single system of technology infrastructure to retrieve, store, analyze, and share medical and personal information among various healthcare professionals or organizations.
As a result, healthcare employees often use inefficient and insecure methods of communication to share sensitive patient data and medical information. This lack of integrated communication hinders all aspects of healthcare delivery and increases the risk of data breaches.
Get Help from an IT Support Partner
In the face of these formidable IT challenges, your healthcare business can take heart knowing that there are ways to overcome them. The most important recommendation we have is for your healthcare organization to work with a trusted IT Support partner like Network Depot to address these issues.
Your experienced IT partner will have the expertise to recommend what hardware and software you will need to comply with HIPAA/HITECH requirements and will make sure to protect your network most effectively from cyberattack. They will also work with your company to develop a hybrid solution to meet the challenge of data storage by utilizing both cloud options as well as onsite storage options to comply with regulations and protect your sensitive information. Your IT partner will also offer options on installing secure and effective systems that will effectively standardize and integrate telephone and online communications.
With the help of your trusted IT Support partner and the effective use of IT, your healthcare business will overcome regulatory, cybersecurity, data, and technological challenges and be able to offer your patients and customers the highest level of service.