Outsourcing IT Functions

As technology becomes more pervasive in the healthcare field, more and more hospitals and networks are outsourcing at least some of their IT functions. According to Healthcare IT News, “Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of health systems with more than 300 beds — and 81 percent of providers with fewer than 300 beds — are shifting their focus to IT outsourcing for development and complex infrastructure services.”

The complexity of complying with new regulations means health systems and clinics are finding it more cost-efficient to contract out functions including EHR and analytics to companies that have the knowledge and full-time staff to both handle their current needs and innovate new solutions. In addition to reducing costs, outsourcing IT can help ensure that your IT professionals have all the necessary and up-to-date expertise to tackle new problems. But you should research your vendor and set realistic budgets and expectations, as failing to do so can lead to cost overruns or capabilities shortfalls.

Electronic Health Records.

Photo by Connor Tarter - CC-BY-SA

Photo by Connor TarterCC-BY-SA

EHR was supposed to help doctors focus their attention on patients instead of paperwork, yet poor implementations have often not led to these stated claims. A paper from the Harvard Business review studied this problem and developed a number of recommendations including:

  • Clearly define “the why”: emphasize a culture that places physician performance at the forefront.
  • Ensure doctors can focus on being doctors: limit physician distractions and move as much of the insurance, billing, and records tasks to administrative teams, where it can be done more efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Focus on outcomes instead of services: by tracking healthcare outcomes and incentivizing performance, it reinforces the fundamental reason for healthcare.

Big Data Analytics

Big Data has become somewhat of a buzzword in the IT industry, but expect it to continue dominating headlines as the sheer amount of data created increases as does our ability to analyze and understand it. Apple and IBM have teamed up to create as system in which iPhone users can upload their data to IBM’s Watson Health, a cloud-based analytics service. Big data is helping researchers select the best candidates for pharmaceutical and treatment trials,
and mobile phone data was used to help track and predict the spread of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Expect also to see companies develop new ways of gathering and collecting data from different sources, which currently hold information in fragmented databases that limit the effectiveness of analytics tools.

Cybersecurity

Given the amount of personal information available in patient records, healthcare is one of the leading targets for cybercrime. The Anthem breach in February 2015 compromised the data of almost 80 million customers, and in the first half of 2015, the healthcare industry was hit with 187 breaches, accounting for 21 percent of total incidents. Ensuring IT security is more important than ever both in protecting your organization from liability and helping patients feel comfortable trusting you with some of their most intimate information.

HealthIT.gov has a list of tips to help healthcare practices protect their information, the first of which being establishing a security culture. As strong as any IT strategy can be, human error can and does still lead to breaches, so training employees to do their part to prevent such attacks is critical.