Any medical team in any practice will tell you that every day is a roller coaster of events and emotions, and only part of that comes from the patients. After the last appointment of the day, there is always follow up to do, no matter how efficient each practitioner and his/her team are. Electronic technology has been a boon to medicine—no doubt about that, but—not every practice will tell you that they love their IT systems.
Some practicing physicians can remember what a huge time-saver electronic dictation became when it was introduced. Post-World War II physicians were the earliest to use audio recording devices daily for patient encounter notes. This eliminated the time needed to sit down with a stenographer, who would document patient visits in shorthand then sit at a typewriter to transcribe those notes. Add a few billion more people to the planet and it is quickly apparent how critical information technology can be to the accurate, timely and inclusive workflow of any provider’s day.
Why, then, is there so much angst around today’s medical IT usage? While everyone seems to agree on the efficacy of having Electronic Health Records, secure patient portals, and social media outreach to the patient database, do medical centers know how to use the operating systems to their best time advantage?
“Part of our job as healthcare technology managers is to stay on the cutting edge of what’s new and what works,” said local medical IT managed services provider Keith Barthold of DKBInnovative. “When we think especially about embedded communications, there are several critical factors in play.”
Is it user-friendly?
We all know that if it’s hard to use, it won’t get used. If new medical technology takes too long to learn or will be hard to learn, user pushback will stall any progress such innovative programs can bring. According to studies done in the last few years, it was only a decade or so ago when 9 out of 10 doctors made patient chart updates by hand and kept a color-coded manual filing system. In March 2017, 67% of all providers reported using an EHR, a 1% increase over September 2016 (Source: SKA), but many providers will grumble that time spent learning computer programs means less time spent with patients.
“We have learned from being in the trenches that before learning any new computer programs in a practice, all complementary systems must be perfect. Do not take a physician away from his or her patients to learn computer stuff and then have to make connection repairs or network tweaks,” advises Keith Barthold. “Your managed service provider should be ready to explain the value of all recent technologies and to demonstrate how they will improve customer satisfaction and increase practice productivity. “
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Security: Ransomware is now a reportable data breach
Ransomware is on the rise, with reports that as many as 50% of U.S. based organizations were attacked by ransomware in 2016, and only half of those victims were able to recover all their data. A ransomware attack is now an official, reportable data breach according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), where ePHI (electronic personal health information) is impacted.
It seems that keeping sensitive patient health data secure is now as primary a concern as patient diagnosis and treatment. The heavily regulated medical industry has strict rules about when and how patient data should be encrypted, transmitted and decrypted. Telehealth applications must include data security standards and encrypted algorithms that are compliant with Federal laws and guidelines and see to it that any third-party platforms used are also completely secure and have total data protection, control over outside access, and overall continuity rules.
Integration and cost effectiveness
Your managed IT services company should be on top of any modern technology that would help your practice, and they will subsequently integrate anything new into your current network. Organizations with restricted environments will probably run into browser/plugin/network issues. Also likely are problems with the interface to historically used storage systems and/or devices. Devising workarounds could result in significant increases in infrastructure, maintenance, and upgrades–increasing total cost of ownership. Your IT managed service provider should discuss all this with you before you make any commitments.
“In some situations, it will be hard before it can ultimately be easy,” warns DKBInnovative’s CEO, Keith Barthold. “It’s all still highly specialized work, but a trusted managed IT provider should be able to keep your physicians and their support staff members’ pain to a minimum. Evolving medical technology is a given. Find a progressive and responsive managed service provider and let your information technology become your best friend.”