The Management of Healthcare Data in 2018: A Look Ahead
By Stephen Matheson, VP, Product & NA Sales, BridgeHead Software
At HIMSS18: Visit BridgeHead Software at #HIMSS18 in Booth 3065 this year in Las Vegas.
From WannaCry to the Equifax breach, cyberattacks dominated headlines in 2017. As cybercriminals look for new ways to breach data networks, hospital IT departments will continue to be the last line of defense in the ongoing cyberwar for highly-valued patient data. Other tactical priorities faced by hospital CIOs and CMIOs include the need to increase staff productivity, and the mandate to shift a hospital’s “cost-footprint” with a “revenue-generating footprint”. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom ahead for 2018. Below are several strategies that can help hospitals mitigate risk and more efficiently manage patient data.
Out with the old…
For starters, hospitals need to retire legacy applications, healthcare’s Achilles heel when it comes to securing patient data. These outdated and seldom-used legacy technology systems present a host of security vulnerabilities with each connection point providing an open backdoor for today’s sophisticated cybercriminal. By retiring legacy applications, the number of potential attack points is reduced while the overall security of your network is improved. Until outdated legacy IT systems are put out to pasture, your hospital’s IT department could be a gateway for cybercriminals. Aside from the security risks, many legacy systems do not support current healthcare business structures, such as MACRA and Meaningful Use, which adversely impacts EHR reporting and interoperability.
Then there’s the heavy price tag that that comes with maintaining these obsolete systems. With the need for dedicated servers, storage, datacenter floor space, power and cooling costs, coupled with licensing fees, support and maintenance contracts, legacy applications are a major drain on hospital IT budgets. In fact, some healthcare facilities estimate that they spend more money on legacy application licensing costs than they do on IT wages.
Consolidation is key
Healthcare providers need to consider consolidating their application suite while simultaneously retaining the historic patient data in an accessible, usable format. Think about it. What’s the best use for your IT staff: maintaining legacy systems or ensuring patient information is kept safe? With so much IT staff time spent maintaining patient information residing in many disparate applications with many different interfaces and rules for data entry, that’s time taken away from value-added services that can help streamline systems and enable better workflows and, ultimately, better care.
Increase the revenue-generating footprint
Within many hospitals, a dedicated datacenter space, including servers and other IT-related equipment and staff, is housed within the hospital footprint. However, taking up all this physical space and valuable employee time is hurting the hospital’s bottom line. Hospitals should consider moving their technology-heavy infrastructure, such as servers, storage and applications to the cloud, which can pose several benefits. For one, a repository in the cloud can act as the single consolidated secondary location where all patient and business data can reside, thus eliminating redundancies, freeing up hospital IT staff and enabling the transition from cost footprint to revenue-generating footprint by reducing the need for physical servers and storage onsite. Cloud migration will also help introduce new clinical workflows that will help meet the demand for reliable care.
It’s no secret. Older technologies, whether hardware or software, are more prone to cyberattacks since they often do not utilize appropriate levels of encryption technology, sophisticated authentication and password protocols. By reducing the number of legacy applications, a hospital’s IT department lessens the point of entry for cybercriminals while, at the same time, lessens the number of applications that need to meet stringent security standards.
Provide full access to data at the point of care
Hospital CIOs and CMIOs are working to simultaneously enhance healthcare data security, reduce IT spending, and increase staff productivity. One emerging technology that supports these evolving aspects while consolidating data into an integrated, longitudinal patient record is the Independent Clinical Archive (ICA). These vendor-neutral repositories allow patient data to be stored, protected and archived in one central database, giving providers a 360-degree view of the patient. Further an ICA is designed to live in the cloud thus reducing the cost-footprint of in-hospital datacenters.
While IT departments may face a tall order in 2018, ICAs and other vendor-neutral technology solutions have evolved in leaps and bounds to help leaders support their complex data management challenges.