THE PROMISE — AND CHALLENGE — OF HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY
Earlier this year, consulting icon PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that Tech among other things would bring groundbreaking opportunities to healthcare in 2019 — along with a significant amount of backbreaking challenges. Chief among them is the need for IT departments to manage rapidly-evolving software, including:
Digital therapeutics - diagnosis and treatment of diseases using tech, often augmenting or even replacing the need for medications
Connected care - linking patient and doctor electronically, either via an app or online to give real-time data that can help physicians monitor their patients wherever they are
Training for a workforce and an industry that seeks to be as upskilled as possible in order to stand out among competitors; where turnover is costly, the appeal of offering the newest tech tools can improve employee retention and revenues
Ironically, the same staff that embraces the innovation to practicing medicine and helping them to perform cutting-edge procedures also bemoans the time it takes to enter the data after a patient visit. Often, several hours after rounds are spent writing in patient notes, and in some studies physicians reported twice the amount of computer time v. time spent in front of patients. It’s the other edge of technology’s sword.
The forces at work aren’t just the medical and administrative staff in hospitals or clinics, either. PwC’s study found that patients also demand the technology. In fact, 54 percent of consumers said they would be likely to try an FDA-approved app or online tool for treatment of their medical condition. And when a hospital’s bottom line depends on what they can offer patients in house as well as remotely in order to attract patients, those demands are not falling on deaf ears.
Take all of these factors and place them in front of an IT department that must manage the demand, and do so without overspending on their own budgets for staffing, training, and deployment. The technology also needs to be ready to launch on day one so devices can go from out of the box to the hands of nurses and doctors.
Finally, as the new is ushered in, issues of disposing of the aging assets are another headache that healthcare IT (HIT) has to battle. If the lack of available published discussion is any gauge, it seems to be the least talked about among their concerns. Of course, it’s of paramount concern that patient data is protected as aging tech is retired and ushered out the door, but it’s usually placed solely on the shoulders of the IT department to handle.
This is where HIT is turning to companies that can relieve the burden of secure disposal of their technology assets or e-waste. They also need to provide to administrators a record of where and how devices containing patient data are being handled, from the moment it leaves their hands to the time data is recorded as destroyed.
Often there are costs assessed to manage the disposal of data and devices, and with healthcare seeing dwindling revenues in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, budgets are razor thin. Of course the cost of failure is much higher, with data breaches threatening to compromise healthcare and patients.
According to HIPAA, by the end of 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had received notifications of 351 data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records for the year. Those breaches resulted in the exposure of 13,020,821 healthcare records.
All that said, who you choose to partner with to manage it all deserves your scrutiny.
What certifications you should demand:
R2 certification: Also called the Responsible Recycling certification, this standard ensures that the company maintains a policy on managing used and end-of-life e-waste, whether they reuse, recycle or resell. This reflects on you as well for responsible disposal of assets that mean a zero impact to the environment, which is healthy for everyone.
ISO 14000 standard certification: This provides further oversight on a company’s practices that can impact the environment, ensuring compliance to all applicable laws.
ISO 9001 standard certification: A company is only so trustworthy and consistent as their established processes, and this standard is consistent with organizations that demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement while reducing waste and lowering costs.
NAID certification: The National Association for Information Destruction is the standard bearer for companies who take secure and careful management of data as seriously as you do. Exhaustive audits are performed to ensure compliance and quality of processes that keep data secure until its destruction. For HIT, it is the watchdog of the partner they enlist to take their devices off their premises, and take concerns over their security off their shoulders.
So, the importance of contracting with a company that has the appropriate certifications and also HIPAA compliant can’t be overstated. It will alleviate the worry of data breaches from devices that have left your clinic or hospital, reduce your costs in time and money, and establish a process going forward that will in turn improve the efficiency in managing the numerous demands placed on HIT on any given day.