The healthcare industry is arguably one of the most important and essential industries in our society today. This is because it literally stands as the guardian between the life and health of the society as a whole and its disease, decay, and death. Without this vital industry, a once thriving society would inevitably collapse within a very short time, as history has proven time and time again. However, this very vital industry that has a huge responsibility for the well-being of mankind is also one of the most plagued with various challenges. For instance, healthcare professionals have some of the hardest jobs ever, but they often lack the resources they need to do their jobs.
This article will focus on some of the most relevant IT challenges affecting the healthcare industry. It will also try to establish how some of these challenges can be mitigated by utilizing the advantages and opportunities that recent technological advancements have to offer.
1. The threat of cybersecurity breaches
Patient privacy is a big deal in the healthcare sector. However, with the introduction of newer technological innovations, the risk of loss of private data considerably increases. Cyber security for healthcare sector needs to be a priority as it often means that patient data and personal identification information gets stolen. In 2015 for instance, the Anthem medical data breach led to the theft of medical records containing personally identifiable information of 78.8 million people.
Hospitals and clinics also often fall victim to ransomware. In 2016, over 15 major hospitals were hit by ransomware in the UK alone. Most victims had to shut down their entire systems for some time, which had an impact on the overall health service provision.
2. Network Integration Issues
These are mainly caused by company mergers or acquisitions in the healthcare sector. When hospitals and clinics merge or get acquired, the resultant merger and acquisition process often creates blind spots in their respective IT networks. The data transmitted during this time may not be transmitted correctly because the different systems previously used by the different companies may not be compatible. These issues often take a bit of time to resolve. However, in the healthcare industry, time lost can often mean the difference between life and death. When electronic medical records need to be availed to doctors so that they can make important decisions, problems may arise if these records do not arrive on time.
3. Big Data
The healthcare industry is one of the few industries that has an excess of unsorted and uncategorized data. Having too much data that cannot be used can prove to be a liability. Organizations need to learn what data to collect, how to collect it and what to do with it once they have it. An unfortunate lack of tools and strategies in the sector has made data analytics a very intimidating process for most healthcare professionals.
Big data can potentially benefit the healthcare industry in many ways if it is used correctly. High-risk groups can be better identified, patient care can be improved and inventory can be better managed. For example, when it comes to hearing devices, it is possible to monitor the uptake, use, retention capacity and how well different hearing devices work. Furthermore, since every single patient is unique, collecting data on the different hearing conditions they all suffer from only means that better innovative solutions can be proposed after an analysis of the lessons learned.
4. HIPAA Compliance
Many healthcare organizations would admit that HIPAA compliance is like a fully grown child that just won’t leave home. Although many would be happy without it, they have no choice but to comply with the set stipulations if they want to continue their business practices.
The role of IT in ensuring HIPAA compliance has steadily increased over the past few years. Today, personal healthcare records need to be safe and secure, a thorny subject that is harder than ever to comply with completely. Reliable and secure environments for sharing sensitive information are also essential, as are secure storage and management programs for health data. IT departments in the healthcare industry need to outline how they intend to meet the stringent HIPAA privacy and security rules, providing tangible evidence of their ability to do so. Although all this is for the good of the general public, it can get very time consuming, costly and demoralizing for companies in the healthcare industry.
These challenges make the performance of various functions in the healthcare industry today quite difficult. However, solutions to most of these problems are already being proposed and steadily being implemented. We can look to the future with hopeful eyes because these challenges will soon be a thing of the past.
Security features are becoming more robust and harder to crack every day, especially with the increased utilization of artificial intelligence technologies. Additionally, there are more provisions for gaining and maintaining network visibility in different industries. This allows the stakeholders to effectively understand the data being monitored. In the healthcare industry, this can only mean more opportunities for refined procedures, risk assessments, better training of staff, and better diagnoses.