Tag: Heather Annolino

How Connectivity Can Improve Patient Safety During COVID-19

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By Heather Annolino, senior director healthcare practice, Ventiv.

In recent weeks the U.S. has experienced a significant increase in new COVID-19 cases. For healthcare facilities in these regions, this is a constant reminder that things are “not business as normal” and has resulted in administrators needing to continually monitor the changing COVID-19 response landscape to reduce risks which could affect the quality of patient care.

With this in mind, patient safety is more important than ever. The ability for healthcare organizations to implement predictive analytics and data-discovery tools that identify hidden patterns and trends is essential. This allows them to focus on interventions and changes in processes, detect vulnerabilities, and increase preparedness before, during and after an incident to further decrease patient harm.

Moving forward, healthcare organizations must embrace a heightened level of risk management to provide an environment free from harm. These new risks, along with gaps in longstanding processes, require better risk management and patient safety systems with the ability to capture, track, and analyze data in real-time to enhance processes that will mitigate future risks.

Working as a centralized reporting tool, these systems can also remove any biases to assist with making enhanced decisions to continually drive operational efficiencies.

Here are three system requirements for an effective, integrated patient safety tool needed for healthcare leaders to elevate care, enhance quality and reduce risk throughout different phases of the pandemic.

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Key Strategies For Minimizing Risks While Embracing COVID-19 Telehealth Expansion

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By Heather Annolino, senior director healthcare practice, Ventiv.

As hospitals are working vigorously to address the health care needs of its patient population during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are unintentionally leaving themselves and their patients exposed to cybersecurity risks.

Measures implemented to protect workers and patients, including expanded use of telehealth and telemedicine, remote work and bringing new equipment such as ventilators online can leave data exposed, and institutions vulnerable to hackers and scammers. These cyberattacks can affect supply chains and the ability to leverage healthcare data from the COVID-19 pandemic for use in the future for other crises.

In March 2020, the Office for Civil Rights announced it would not enforce penalties for HIPAA noncompliance against providers leveraging telehealth platforms that may not comply with privacy regulations. This measure rapidly expanded the use of telehealth and telemedicine over the past several weeks, allowing providers to utilize videoconferencing platforms, including WebEx, Zoom and Skype.

The use of telemedicine improves patient access and assists with alleviating the additional burden on healthcare systems by limiting in-person care during the COVID-19 pandemic. If any incidents do occur, they should be entered into the facility’s health care risk management/patient safety software system. This technology is designed to help healthcare organizations see all of their data in one place, making it easier to learn from the incidents through analysis. While doing that now might be difficult, it is essential to capture this data to improve preparation for the next disaster and prevent patient harm.

Although telemedicine presents a lower risk from a risk management perspective, it is still important to provide consistent processes and protections to mitigate potential threats. During these uncertain times, telemedicine is the best option for providers to continue treating select segments of their patient population, as well as triage potential COVID-19 cases. Whether health care organizations are looking to expand (or even begin) the use of telemedicine capabilities, it is crucial to outline best practices for consent, credentialing, and security and privacy to assist with mitigating potential risks.

Here are a few strategies facilities should consider:

Security and Privacy

Under normal circumstances, healthcare facilities have difficulty bringing key equipment online securely. As facilities are currently working tirelessly to address COVID-19 patients’ needs in addition to continuing to provide care to non-COVID-19 patients, there is a potential increase of security risks as additional medical equipment and medical IoT devices integrate into the network.

By investing in and deploying cybersecurity procedures and protections, including backup and downtime procedures, healthcare facilities can reduce the risk of potential phishing and ransomware attempts. These measures should include ensuring all practitioners are using communication apps recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights and secure telephone connections as well.

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