By Devin Partida, technology writer and the editor-in-chief, ReHack.com.
Many aspects of modern health care are increasingly dependent on IT professionals. Here are five challenges those experts are likely to encounter this year and some potential solutions.
1. Addressing the IT Needs of Rural Facilities
Many modern hospital processes require the internet. However, many hospitals are not in areas known for reliable internet access. These are typically rural facilities that often lack large IT teams.
However, these medical centers play substantial roles in the surrounding areas. Estimates suggest that rural communities account for 20% of the United States’ population. Hospitals are often among the primary places of employment for residents there.
Some IT obstacles at rural facilities relate to communication silos. However, a clinical mobility assessment could break down some of the barriers between IT professionals and clinicians. Moreover, investing in managed services can relieve the burdens at hospitals without large IT teams.
2. Coping With Too Many COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Standards
With COVID-19 vaccination programs rolling out in many countries, merely getting the appropriate number of shots is insufficient. People must also prove they did so. For now, they usually have paper vaccine cards with handwritten details.
However, several companies are working on digital vaccine passports. Those could prove vital for helping vaccinated individuals attend a concert or sporting event, travel abroad, or even dine in a restaurant.
People with knowledge of the matter say a primary issue is that there are currently four standards used for these projects and no sign of world leaders agreeing to stick with just one.
A related matter is that the United States alone has dozens of public vaccination databases. Implementing a system where a passport app could retrieve information from all of them requires one standard.
It’s also not clear whether people will need different vaccination apps depending on their desired activities. Since so many details remain unknown, the best thing for health IT professionals to do now is stay abreast of progress and consider how developments could affect their work.
3. Asserting the Need for Products to Support Remote Working
There was a tremendous increase in remote work during 2020, and that’s not likely to change soon. Remote work is especially appropriate for people who work at health care facilities but not in patient-centered roles, such as accountants.
However, an emerging issue for many people now working remotely much of the time is that the programs used by their organizations do not facilitate working from home or at an off-site location. In such cases, productivity can plummet while frustration levels soar.
Corporate leaders may also incorrectly assume that moving to remote work was a failed effort overall, when the real problem is that workers are ill-equipped to succeed.
Many health IT teams will likely find themselves called on to clarify why finance professionals must make new investments in suitable products to support the remote workforce. They may also need to research appropriate options to ensure the maximum return on investment.
4. Curbing the Rise in Ransomware
Ransomware was a problem long before 2021. However, statistics suggest it could pose even more difficulties for IT professionals in health care settings this year.
One cybersecurity company calculated 237 health care-related breaches in 2020. There were already 56 such incidents recorded by the end of February 2021. Researchers also examined data from January 2020 through February 2021, attempting to confirm the most common causes of such breaches. The results showed that ransomware caused breaches in the health care sector more than 54% of the time.
The report emphasized that it’s not easy to conclude which attack vectors groups will use for orchestrating ransomware attacks. However, those involved often exploit known vulnerabilities, including those linked to Microsoft Server Message Block and the Remote Desktop Protocol.
Thus, one of the best preventive measures is to download the latest software patches as soon as they become available.
5. Tackling Telemedicine Barriers
Telemedicine provides convenience for many people. However, for others, issues can stem from a lack of reliable internet service and compatible devices or a user not speaking English as their first language. Also, in the United States, only 26% of people aged 65 and older feel very confident using tech devices.
Health IT professionals must remain aware of how telemedicine could exacerbate existing inequalities. If their organizations plan to scale up their usage, they should point out possible concerns.
They can also play important roles in reducing obstacles. For example, if a patient says tech illiteracy is their main challenge in accessing telemedicine, perhaps they could receive an hour of virtual training from an IT professional.
Challenges Ahead, but Solutions Exist
These five issues will likely affect health IT professionals this year. However, they’re addressable matters, especially when people explore all available resources and avenues.