In our modern, constantly-shifting society, we often find ourselves constantly looking to the future of healthcare information technologies. What is to come? How will advances in healthcare IT affect care? How are we going to make the shift as smooth as possible?
However, at John Lynch & Associates, my colleagues and I often find that many healthcare organizations are still not fully utilizing the healthcare information technologies available to us today.
Rather than pondering – and stressing over – what is to come in the future, let us take a moment to focus on the opportunities we have before us right now and how we can continue to improve upon the use of these technologies within your healthcare organization.
There are three healthcare information technologies in particular that are highly accessible and have improved tremendously in recent years, but that are not being fully embraced or optimized within many healthcare organizations, including cloud storage, electronic health record (EHR) systems, and telehealth technology.
Many organizations have been slow to adopt cloud storage systems in recent years – and for an understandable reason. With the spotlight aimed firmly at protecting patient health information and a dramatic increase in data breaches and HIPAA violations and fines, may healthcare organizations see cloud storage solutions as more of a vulnerability than a beneficial tool.
Cloud storage technology allows healthcare organizations to move their data, applications, and servers into an environment that is managed by another company. Doing so allows healthcare IT departments to lessen the load for the organization to manage, support, and maintain those systems with greater efficiency.
Moving critical data to the cloud brings a level of voluntary simplicity and ease to supporting the organization’s IT department and enabling the supportive staff to elevate the projects they are working on to advance the organization as a whole.
However, while many other industries readily embrace cloud storage solutions, healthcare has been slow to do so due to the concern of protected health information (PHI). Healthcare organizations may worry about the security of the cloud to protect PHI or they may struggle to gain trust from patients given the current focus on data breaches around the world.
Still, other worries include whether the organization will have full control over their data once it is in the cloud and whether there will be any issues with gaining access to that data for later use.
Thankfully, there has been a significant change over the last few years in that trust has steadily grown as cloud storage has become more mainstream. In fact, many healthcare organizations have found that security has actually improved by moving data up to a cloud-based environment.
Now, several cloud storage providers specialize in providing service from a HIPAA perspective with regulatory concerns in mind. Larger cloud-based organizations have realized that healthcare information technologies, in particular, are special and require robust infrastructure.
As such, cloud storage providers specializing in healthcare data feature their HIPAA compliance certificates on their websites to prove that they are conscious of and up-to-date with relevant regulations.
Bridging the communication and trust gap between the providers of cloud-based technology and the healthcare organizations will allow for greater trust and a willingness for healthcare organizations to simplify their environments and make that transition.
Electronic health record (EHR) systems are relatively prolific in terms of healthcare information technologies. Yet, many healthcare organizations continue to struggle to fully transition to EHR tools or to utilize EHR tools to their fullest ability.
One of the most valuable gains of using EHR systems is the ease of sharing records and being able to capture important data. With paper record-keeping, in which a healthcare organization has an entire medical records department full of individual charts for each and every patient, providers would be able to access their own records systematically, but no other departments or organizations who might be collaborating on a patient’s health would have access to those records.
The simplicity of an EHR allows multiple organizations to have access to the same patient record so no information is left out of the diagnosis and treatment processes. However, the piece of this equation that is still causing many healthcare organizations to struggle is the need to exchange information from one organization to another, or one department to another.
For example, if a patient goes to a hospital for emergency treatment, then later sees his or her general practitioner, that physician may need to know information from the hospital visit, but it is currently difficult for those organizations to share PHI through EHR systems.
In order to overcome this challenge, all healthcare organizations need to commit to setting up their EHR systems for maximum efficiency, capturing data thoroughly, and participating with their state’s Health Information Exchange (HIE). Only then can we expect all healthcare organizations to benefit from an equitable exchange of information, improve quality of care, improve revenue cycle management, and protect the efficiency of the entire healthcare industry from providers to payers.
Telehealth is also significant in the category of healthcare information technologies that is dramatically changing and will continue to change the way physicians work with patients. Telehealth allows providers to reach patients far more easily in a more efficient manner where the physician can make a connection through video technology.
In particular, as the growth of the senior population continues and our aging population becomes more reliant on technology, telehealth will permit physicians and healthcare organizations to serve elderly patients with convenience and quality.
Telehealth technology is available to us right now, but many healthcare organizations are either delaying the set-up of telehealth departments or they have not done enough to tell their patient populations that this technology is available and covered under their health plans.
In the behavioral health sector, telehealth technologies are becoming more popular and the national population is making use of such services more readily. The same applications can dramatically improve the efficiency and quality of the healthcare industry.
Many organizations struggle to implement these healthcare information technologies because they are so engrossed in the day-to-day operations that they do not have the time to fully implement these beneficial systems correctly. This is where bringing on an outside team to support your healthcare organization can pay off tremendously for the improvement of the organization and the patient population.
If you are eager to get on-board with the amazing technological advances available to organizations today, contact us. We can help your organization leverage technology to reach your core mission.
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