The healthcare IT paradox is putting the promised role of technology in jeopardy
July 5, 2023
Protecting patient privacy sits alongside primum non nocere (translated from Latin as “first, do no harm”) as a core tenant of healthcare. It is concerning that according to a recent SOTI research report, The Technology Lifeline: Charting Digital Progress in Healthcare, 64 percent of Canadian healthcare providers said their organization experienced one or more security breaches since 2021.
Legally and ethically, healthcare organizations and providers have a duty to secure patient information. Yet, 32 percent of Canadian healthcare organizations have experienced a deliberate or accidental data leak from an employee in the last year, and 37 percent experienced a data breach from an outside source or DDoS attack. Why is that and what can be done about it?
The pandemic accelerated digitization and mobile adoption: Over the past few years, there has been an urgency to make operations more streamlined to enable remote or hybrid working, support the growth of telehealth and facilitate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
Now there is also a shift to automation through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR). Organizations are rethinking which technologies are needed and where to advance healthcare.
The scale and diversification of device implementation across the healthcare sector continues to grow with 37 percent of IT professionals reporting an increase in the mix of devices (mobile devices, tablets, rugged and printers) used in their healthcare organization in the past year. Additionally, 28 percent of IT professionals reported an increase in the use of personal devices to access company systems and network.
What is becoming more apparent are concerns around how to integrate and manage these emerging technologies while transitioning away from legacy systems.
Ninety-four per cent (94 percent) of Canadian healthcare IT professionals said their organization has legacy technology and processes in place. As a result, the top three concerns facing IT professionals are security attacks (39 percent), too much time spent fixing issues (37 percent) and the inability to quickly access patient data (25 percent).
As new technologies are adopted, not only should new security processes be introduced, but organizations must also review their Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) strategy and solutions.
This is to ensure IT teams can monitor device use and fix issues as they arise in near real-time. If not, administrative lapses, maintenance struggles, device downtime, lost efficiency and sub-optimal patient care will become even bigger issues.
The healthcare IT paradox: Over the past few years, frontline healthcare workers have made heroic efforts in keeping patients safe and healthy. In tandem, healthcare IT workers had to implement new technologies in a short amount of time, effectively plugging advanced mobile technology into an outdated backend system or platform.
The issue is that while 82 percent of healthcare IT professionals reported that their organizations used tablets or laptops and 81 percent used smartphones in the last year, organizations need to ensure they are effectively managing these devices.
Fifty-one percent of healthcare IT workers cannot detect new devices, support devices remotely or get detailed information on device usage with legacy IT infrastructure, while 54 percent spend too much time fixing issues and not enough time working on essential IT issues.
The healthcare industry faces a paradox: amidst the rapid adoption of a diverse range of devices in healthcare to improve patient care outcomes, it faces an alarming imbalance between technological advancements and necessary resources to manage and secure these devices.
It’s clear that the growing complexity of device management, including the management of legacy systems, requires urgent attention and adequate investment in resources to mitigate potential vulnerabilities and protect sensitive healthcare data.
Innovation remains a priority: While security concerns remain a top issue in the healthcare sector, 83 percent of all IT professionals indicated that usage of new technologies to improve organizational efficiency and patient care outcomes is a priority. Additionally, AI and VR are being actively investigated in the healthcare sector, with 67 percent of IT professionals stating that their healthcare organizations are in the research or implementation phases with these new solutions.
There is also a shift to automate manual processes. Just under half of those researched revealed that one or more manual processes used within their organization would benefit from being automated, including:
- Collecting data during patient visits (49 percent)
- Accessing general medical information/resources (43 percent)
- Accessing and updating patient records (45 percent)
- Accessing test results (41 percent)
IT professionals in healthcare organizations clearly see the continued potential in technology’s ability to improve patient care, and overall operations. Yet the paradox remains.
Maximizing technology’s role in the future of healthcare: SOTI’s research of IT professionals around the world has revealed that each employee is losing an average of 3.4 hours in a normal week due to technical or system difficulties. This goes against technology’s role in the future of healthcare as one that will enable smoother, more secure and faster levels of care.
At its best, it should facilitate better interaction between caregivers and patients, while also encouraging employees to stay in the sector long-term, thanks to a more efficient, less frustrating and error-free environment.
It is crucial to accept that technologies and devices such as laptops, smartphones, printers, scanners, RFID readers, AI and VR can only reach this potential if they’re being integrated, managed, upgraded and maintained effectively. This requires real-time data and insight into their efficacy, and remote monitoring of each individual device’s performance as an ongoing visible function.
Most importantly, it depends on connectivity. IT teams must ensure that each new solution complements existing (and sometimes legacy) systems already in place, to create single sources of accessible information, that also remain secure, updated in real-time and accessible remotely.
There are more lifesaving tools and technologies available now than at any other point in history, and IT professionals in the sector have demonstrated the need for improved management of developing infrastructures to support these tools.
Yet, in medical terms, healthcare organizations must “increase the dose” of technology used to treat patients and the tools needed to secure the data it collects. To do so, they must implement the advanced diagnostic intelligence solutions that will provide them with the performance visibility and remote device support they require.
As SVP of Product Strategy at SOTI, Shash Anand oversees the company’s evolution from a single product centered around Mobile Device Management (MDM) to an integrated platform that solves many of the challenges around Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and Internet of Things (IoT) management.