Today’s healthcare providers have an unprecedented array of IT products and platforms to help them provide efficient, high quality care to patients, but those same technologies also introduce new challenges and can even expose practices to previously unchartered risks. Add to the mix the continually evolving measures required to maintain regulatory compliance and the growing need to incorporate mobile access to services, and it’s clear that the world of modern healthcare is as rich in complexity as it is opportunity.
Managed Services Providers (MSP) are uniquely positioned to manage the complexity so providers can maximize the opportunity for enhanced patient care as well as profitability. In this article, we’ll examine some of the most significant IT challenges and risks healthcare providers face, what the role of an MSP is, and the primary benefits to healthcare organizations of working with a Managed IT Services Provider.
IT Challenges and Risks in the Healthcare Industry
Technology has revolutionized many industries, but its impact in the world of healthcare, particularly since the digitalization of health records, is particularly significant. Healthcare is also one of the most stringently regulated industries, adding a higher level of scrutiny and need for compliance measures. These factors contribute to a number of industry-specific IT challenges and risks, including:
Security Breaches and Cyber Attacks
The damage done by security breaches and cyber attacks can have long-lasting and significant impact to healthcare organizations on many levels. In addition to the PR hit, there is also the financial cost of dealing with the breach, shoring up defenses to guard against it happening again, and providing any needed security measures to affected patients such as paying for identity theft protection services.
Studies also show that the healthcare industry is particularly prone to security breaches like the one that exposed the personal health information of about 7,500 Monroe County Hospital & Clinics patients to unauthorized access between October of 2019 and January of 2020. A recent State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report showed that 50% of physicians ranked in the “risk” category, meaning that actions they consider acceptable could potentially put their organization at risk of a security breach. The same study reported that only 18% of all healthcare employees were able to recognize phishing emails.
System Efficiency and Uptime
The prevalence of electronic health records (EHR) has dramatically increased the ease and efficiency of accessing and securely storing patient records, but it also makes the uninterrupted uptime of a healthcare organization’s systems absolutely vital to service delivery. If the system goes down, patients can’t be checked in, their notes can’t be accessed or updated, electronic signatures and permissions can’t be granted, and the practice grinds to a halt.
Any number of factors can impact system uptime, from the need to install updates and patches to a malfunction that requires repair.
HIPAA and Regulatory Compliance
HIPAA compliance and other regulations safeguarding patient rights and privacy as well as adherence to established standards of care necessitate up to date systems that can protect, encrypt, and back up patient data. Failing to meet these requirements places practices at risk of regulatory fines and potential difficulty in maintaining malpractice insurance policies, leaving them open to litigation.
The Role of Managed IT Services Providers
An MSP takes on the job of managing your IT with the ultimate goal of preventing the risks mentioned above from becoming reality. MSPs can help with device and network set up as well as ongoing support, which means that organizations can rest assured that their systems are configured correctly from the get go, and that updates and patches are being installed as needed without them even thinking about it. MSPs also handle the storage and security of data with reliable cloud-based solutions that have redundancies built into them for peace of mind about uninterrupted system uptime.
Advantages to Healthcare Practices Using MSPs
The advantages of utilizing an MSP to manage your healthcare practice’s IT are many, but some of the most significant include:
Enhanced patient care
When IT is continuously maintained so that it is up to date and functioning smoothly, practices are able to offer patients a streamlined and effective experience with minimal paperwork, reduced time spent checking in and completing intake, convenient payment options, and easy ordering of tests or medications.
Ease of HIPAA and regulatory compliance
HIPAA and regulatory compliance requires regular audits as well as the type of IT protocols an MSP can help set up and maintain, such as encryption of patient data, secure storage of personal health information, and strict management of which users have access to sensitive data.
Healthcare organizations can slash IT repair bills by leveraging an MSP to keep their systems and devices up to date and fully functional. They can also reduce the potential expense of dealing with system downtime, lost or difficult to locate records, and security breaches.
MSPs can help safeguard healthcare practices against the kinds of cyber attacks and data leaks or breaches that can result in significant PR and financial damage. Anti-virus software, email security features, and firewalls are just a few of the measures MSPs employ to protect healthcare providers from online threats or leaks.
Safe Mobile Capabilities
As Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) gains an increasing foothold in the world of healthcare, so too do the potential risks of individual practitioners using their personal devices to consult with patients. An MSP can provide a highly secure cloud-based infrastructure that allows for virtually unlimited accessibility without sacrificing the safety of patient data.
As technology continues to advance, the healthcare industry will be empowered to provide even more comprehensive and high-quality care to patients—but only if the challenges and risks associated with leveraging a complex IT system can be mitigated. Managed IT Service Providers are uniquely positioned to facilitate the optimal use of technology for patient care and organizational success, fostering the trusted relationship between patients and providers with security, reliability, and uninterrupted service.
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