The IT Healthcare Providers Need Now

Hospitals and physician practices face tremendous change. IT can ease the transition.

Healthcare IT
The healthcare industry has been roiled by change. From the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to the rise of telehealth, to the threat of data breaches, external forces are reshaping hospital systems and physician practices.

The pace of change and uncertainty will only multiply in 2017. In Canada, cuts to provincial healthcare transfers are slated to go into effect. In the U.S., a new presidential administration may reevaluate Obamacare. Three-quarters of U.S. consumers want the new president to make healthcare change a priority.1

But much of the transformation in healthcare is driven by IT — a change agent that’s increasingly top-of-mind for providers. The good news is that IT can also deliver the solution. “By investing in the right IT, hospitals and physician practices can simplify processes, lower costs and deliver better care and satisfaction to patients,” says Claudio DiGirolamo, CompuCom® senior vice president for North America Life Sciences.

Figure 1. Changing Patient Preferences
Healthcare providers recognize this opportunity. Forty percent say their IT budgets are expanding, though only one-quarter attribute the growth to traditional electronic health records (EHR).2 That suggests providers are moving to the next phase of technology investment. Smart hospitals and physician practices are focusing on three key areas, DiGirolamo says: mobile healthcare, alternative service delivery, and data security.

Mobile Healthcare

Both patients and clinicians are embracing mobile healthcare through apps, remote telehealth and optimized communications. For example, patients doubled their use of health apps between 2013 and 2015. One-fifth have used a mobile device to fill a prescription. And 60 percent would see a doctor through a video connection on a mobile device.3 (See Figure 1.)

Figure 2. Changing Clinician Behaviors
Likewise, 38 percent of clinicians stay in touch with patients with chronic diseases by email. Well over half prefer to provide some care virtually. And 81 percent say mobile access to medical data helps coordinate care.4 (See Figure 2.)

In responding to the mobile imperative, don’t make the mistake of simply letting your mobility grow ad-hoc, DiGirolamo advises. Instead, invest in mobility management to proactively optimize the performance, maintenance and security of your devices. “An effective mobility management tool lets your practice track device health, receive problem alerts, centrally manage devices and users, locate lost or stolen devices, and troubleshoot and resolve issues in real time,” DiGirolamo says.

Alternative Service Delivery

Mobile isn’t the only innovative way patients are connecting to healthcare. Both providers and consumers are increasingly seeking out new channels for the delivery of health services.

For providers, the primary driver is often cost. For example, “large hospital systems are acquiring or partnering with community hospitals so they can offload more routine inpatient care,” DiGirolamo explains. “Or, they’re creating multispecialty outpatient facilities that handle everything but inpatient care. Others are rolling out retail clinics to provide not just primary care but also management of chronic diseases.”

For consumers, it’s often about convenience. Two-thirds of patients say they’re “very satisfied” with the experience at retail clinics. And three-quarters of clinicians agree that nontraditional venues like retail clinics improve access to care.5

But alternative channels bring new IT challenges. First on the list is tight integration with hospital systems, along with reliable connectivity to minimize office downtime. If a power outage or telecom interruption knocks out its Internet connection, a clinic or remote office can’t function. That’s why you need connectivity backup. “A connectivity backup solution combines devices, connections and services to keep your payment-processing systems going,” DiGirolamo explains. “That includes an uninterruptible power supply and a security appliance, plus installation and configuration.”

Data Security

As patients interact with healthcare through new channels and consume services in new ways, their personal, health and financial data risks greater exposure. The numbers are staggering. Nearly 90 percent of healthcare organizations experienced at least one data breach involving loss or theft of patient data in the past two years. Nearly half saw more than five data breaches during that time.6

By far the most common cause of those breaches — occurring in half of cases — was a criminal attack. (See Figure 3.) Sixty-four percent of breaches targeted medical files, while 45 percent went after billing and insurance records (with some obvious overlap).7

Figure 3. Changing Cyberthreat Landscape
And the price tag? The average leak involved 3,128 lost or stolen records, and the average cost to resolve the consequences of such a breach was $2.2 million.8

In short, no aspect of IT is more important than the protection of patient information. In addition to a well-documented and enforced security policy, you need a unified threat management (UTM) solution. UTM combines proven security technologies in a single, automated appliance. These include intrusion detection and prevention, a firewall to block Internet-based attacks, and remote configuration for automatic updates against evolving threats.

The healthcare industry will remain in flux for the foreseeable future. But with change comes opportunity, as players across the sector experiment with new channels and business models. Forward-thinking hospitals and physician practices, DiGirolamo says, will apply IT to make those efforts as successful as possible.

 

1 “HRI Consumer Survey,” PwC, September 2016
2 “40% of U.S. Healthcare Providers Report IT Budgets Are Growing,” IDC, February 2016
3,4,5 “Top Health Industry Issues of 2016,” PwC, December 2015
6,7,8 “Sixth Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data,” Ponemon Institute, May 2016

CompuCom® is a registered trademark of CompuCom Systems, Inc.
IDC® is a registered trademark of International Data Group, Inc.
PwC® is a registered trademark of the Trustees of the PwC Business Trust.

All data cited in this article is used by permission.

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