Though technology is typically viewed as a cost-saving and paper-reducing tool in the healthcare industry, there has been an increased emphasis on using technology to improve patient care and the overall patient experience. Federal law has mandated that healthcare organizations demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) to better engage with patients and their families, coordinate care, and increase quality, safety, and efficiency.
Even without that mandate, the rise of the healthcare consumer is driving increased use of technology. People are approaching healthcare in the same way they approach other products and services, especially as costs continue to rise. Increasingly, they ask questions like, “What is the return on investment (ROI)?” “How much control do I have when it comes to accessing services and data?” “How can I receive the care I need without visiting the doctor’s office?” “What kinds of health-monitoring devices and apps are supported?” As a result, more healthcare organizations are looking to meet patient demand for flexibility and accessibility through ongoing digital transformation.
This, in turn, is creating more use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT). Though security concerns remain, the ability to connect wearable monitoring devices, sensors, and medical equipment to the Internet offers tremendous value to healthcare organizations and patients. For one thing, patients can be tracked and monitored throughout a healthcare facility and when they leave the facility. These devices can also improve operational efficiency by alerting staff to low inventories, scheduling proactive equipment maintenance, and reducing the frequency of in-person visits.
The need for greater efficiency is also driving the integration of EHRs and medical imaging. Though adoption of vendor-neutral FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standards has increased, proprietary vendor tools sometimes affect the access of patients to their own medical records. Interoperability would simplify the management of EHR and medical imaging and eliminate unnecessary redundancy.
Finally, healthcare organizations are becoming more amenable to cloud adoption. Traditionally, security and regulatory compliance concerns have impeded the use of the cloud in healthcare. However, a HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey found that 83 percent of healthcare organizations are using cloud services. The cloud provides the flexibility and agility to fill gaps in legacy infrastructure with minimal upfront cost. Though EHR systems and other platforms that house sensitive data are likely to remain on-premises, digital transformation will push more workloads to the cloud over time.
All of these trends are having a dramatic impact on IT security in healthcare. The healthcare sector has been ravaged by security breaches in recent months, particularly ransomware attacks that block access to applications and data that are critical to operations and patient care. Email phishing scams continue to spread malware and steal patient information. The IoT has made healthcare organizations more vulnerable to attack, and a porous network perimeter has made it difficult to control access.
Healthcare organizations need to take a fresh approach to security to counter these mounting threats. In our next post, we’ll look at how identity management can play a central role in healthcare security as EHRs, the cloud, and the IoT change how patient data is accessed.
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