The start of the global pandemic put incredible stress on the numerous healthcare heroes as well as their facilities, and the industry at large. Medical professionals, already faced with inordinate pressure under normal circumstances, have been working nonstop to perform heroic work day in and day out since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One thing this crisis has clearly illustrated is the need for medical professionals to have access to the latest tools that provide the greatest degree of flexibility, efficiency, and mobility. These tools certainly include the IT backbone underpinning healthcare facilities big and small, from the networks and software to the new wave of smaller, mobile devices.
Two areas of IT have seen tremendous uptake in the healthcare industry as it has adapted to the crisis, the first being through the accelerated shift to telemedicine. Telemedicine allows patients to get almost instant medical attention without the concerns of traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital during the coronavirus outbreak. Indeed, the telemedicine market is expected to swell to $155.1 billion by 2027 in large part due to the pandemic.
Overall, telemedicine is an efficient way for providers to see the highest possible number of patients at a lower cost with shorter waiting times. Doctors can schedule more appointments than they would during normal rounds while still maintaining a quality practice that offers individualized attention to each case.
Additionally, telehealth visits can be recorded, allowing clinicians to document progress and share information with relevant specialists on the go. Telemedicine fosters collaboration by combining high-speed internet and high-definition video for communication between colleagues who are sometimes seeing hundreds of people a day because of the coronavirus.
Almost every day, a news story breaks about a cyberattack hitting a healthcare facility. Healthcare is one of the most highly targeted sectors, and hacks cost the industry $4 billion in 2019.
It’s challenging to stay ahead of malicious actors, and since healthcare is such an attractive target, leaders in this field need to be especially alert. IT teams must protect the vulnerable internal systems safeguarding patient data without falling victim to costly ransomware, for example.
Modern hackers know the most vulnerable parts of enterprise systems. That puts medical centers at a disadvantage because they are susceptible to frequent, sustained attacks. Many of these facilities also lack adequate incident response protocols, and they don’t have enough capital in their budgets to replace legacy software and devices. But with a few simple, smart steps, facilities can still significantly uplevel the protection of patient data.
Step one is understanding all the different methods cybercriminals employ when breaching health systems. Some infiltrate clinical labs by exposing vulnerabilities on their websites, while others exploit lax server protections. Employee email accounts are also a common offender since unauthorized third parties can access patient information through phishing.
One worrisome aspect is how many data breaches are the result of internal negligence. Unencrypted laptops, smartphones, and flash drives are an all-you-can-eat buffet for cybercriminals when forgotten and left exposed.
In particular, there’s one standard device that isn’t part of most health systems’ cybersecurity focus, though it should be: the Multi-Function Printer (MFP), which is an easy target because they’re often overlooked, and because so many vital documents flow through these workflow hubs. Keeping such a large volume of data out in the open is an enormous security risk.
One of the biggest trends in healthcare has a distinctly technical focus: clinical mobility, the use of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and mobile printers by physicians and nurses at the point of care. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the average physician currently spends 15 hours per week on reporting measures, cumulatively costing a staggering $15.4 billion annually. Added mobility measures will be a huge relief to these healthcare heroes, who can then spend more time with patients.
The requirements for devices utilized by medical professionals are exacting and stringent because our health depends on them. Likewise, many devices must comply with the sweeping Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, along with numerous other government certifications. While there is a plethora of mobile healthcare devices on the market, a select few are worth calling out for the progress in their performance and usage. Here are three essential tools for modern practices.
No hospital or clinic can survive without positive patient identification (PPID) wristbands, which track patients from admission to discharge using printed labels and help improve throughput and security. Staff members scan bar codes on the bracelets to access medical history, medication lists, or allergies and then send data directly to labs or pharmacies through hospital databases. Workers can also use PPID to generate labels for everything from charts and bills to specimen containers, so important medical documents and paraphernalia stay secure.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes that give patients more freedom benefit from PPID as well, because the technology is excellent at helping maintain the safety of residents. In many cases, family members can also access this information, and so have peace of mind.
Personal care technologies
Chatbots have revolutionized many areas of modern life, and medicine is no exception. The artificially intelligent apps handle basic but time-consuming tasks, ensuring patients take prescriptions and comply with orders. These tools will save the healthcare industry billions of dollars, so many tech companies want to get in on the action, such as by using text and voice apps to answer patient questions with natural language processing, helping medical professionals stay mobile and focused on their work.