Healthcare IT has dramatically changed in the past decade and every indication points to this change continuing in the future. Gone are the days of IT purely focusing on connectivity, email, and file shares. IT has moved into a much more strategic role and is involved in providing solutions to business challenges rather than just working behind the scenes to deliver connectivity.
In many ways, this evolution has happened rapidly. Several factors have contributed to this change, with one of the most significant being Meaningful Use, which provided incentives (and later penalties) for organizations to move from paper to electronic charting. In addition, there were several other developments that have allowed IT leaders to focus on creative ways to deliver solutions and services to meet the demands of the business. Here are four trends that will continue to change the industry in the coming years.
- The Mobile Workforce
Technology has allowed the workforce to be more mobile and geographically diverse. Lines are becoming blurred between work and personal space. We see examples of this in healthcare today where providers now review and dictate patient charts remotely, radiologists read images from various locations, coders work offsite to audit and code charts, and appointment scheduling is handled at remote facilities. Physicians can now pull out a mobile device and review the status of a patient, place lab orders, order prescriptions, or request a consult while waiting in line at their favorite coffee shop.
This change in the workforce demands has led IT to not only develop solutions for use inside the healthcare facility, but also provide access to these systems from any location. During the days of paper charting, most of this was not possible or was very time-consuming. The workforce will continue to become more mobile, and technology must meet the demands of this ever-changing requirement.
- Cybersecurity as a Major Focus
One of the unintended consequences associated with taking a paper chart that was locked in a cabinet behind a closed door and making it electronic so others could access it more easily, is that others can now access it more easily. This includes individuals that were never intended to view this protected information, such as employees, vendors, and nefarious individuals outside of the organization.
Healthcare is one of the most targeted industries for cyber attacks due to the rich data that is stored within a medical record. All the literature and studies seem to concur that this will not slow down anytime soon. Organizations have been forced to focus on securing their data while combating ever-increasing threats by domestic and foreign actors.
IT budgets, resources, and roadmaps must now focus on this growing threat while balancing the usability and accessibility of these clinical systems for those caring for patients. It is very common for healthcare boards to require an update that contains a cybersecurity assessment and plan. Cybersecurity has visibility at the highest levels of the organization, and IT needs to continue to find ways to secure and protect this critical information. Few things can damage the reputation of an organization quicker than news of a breach. Patients entrust us with their most valuable information, and we have a responsibility to ensure we do everything we can to protect and secure it.
- Consumerization of Technology
Pick up any business magazine, and you’ll see many of the world’s leading technology companies continuing to invest in healthcare. In a previous blog (5 Healthcare Trends to Watch), I listed consumer technology as one of the fastest growing areas in healthcare. The potential for this is still not fully known, but we do know that this will continue to be a huge area of investment in years to come. From wearables to internet-enabled medical equipment to home health devices, the need is growing to collect this data and use it to promote wellness and better care.
Many consumers want to be actively involved in their healthcare, and these technologies will pave the way for many of us to do so. IT can and should help leverage technology to open the way for many of these exciting new ideas and solutions.
- Technology’s Growing Role in Care Delivery
Anyone who has experienced planned or unplanned downtimes knows how dependent hospitals and health systems have become on technology. It is becoming increasingly important that organizations plan drills to practice their “downtime procedures.” Many new employees entering the workforce will need to learn how to care for patients using manual procedures. As dependence on IT systems continues to grow, it will become even more important to ensure system integration, data sharing, and system availability are priorities.
These “trends” will continue to force a change in the workplace and will have a significant impact on the way IT delivers value for healthcare organizations and patients. IT must continue to adapt to ensure it is relevant and fulfilling the needs of the business. The future is bright for healthcare IT; it’s up to us to embrace these changes and help transform healthcare into a more efficient provider and patient-friendly industry.
“If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” – General Eric Shinseski
This piece was originally posted on CIO Reflections, a blog created by Michael Saad, VP and CIO at University of Tennessee Medical Center. HIs diverse career path also includes leadership roles with TrustPoint Solutions and Henry Ford Health System. To follow him on Twitter, click here.