Conquering IT Challenges in Healthcare for Best Patient Outcomes  

Updated on April 29, 2024
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As healthcare continues its digital transformation journey, IT professionals find themselves at the forefront of managing complex and often heterogeneous systems, safeguarding sensitive data, and ensuring uninterrupted operations. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and IT in healthcare is not without its fair share of trials. From cybersecurity threats to interoperability challenges, these issues can quickly escalate if not addressed proactively

The healthcare industry poses distinctive challenges for IT teams as they strive to uphold secure and efficient processes. With situations that can swiftly escalate to life-or-death scenarios, unplanned downtime in technology systems is simply not an option. However, in an economic climate where budgets are tight and resources are limited, IT teams nevertheless often find themselves under immense pressure to deliver consistently. In this fast-paced and high-stakes environment, it is crucial for leadership to proactively address these nuanced hurdles and swiftly implement effective solutions to prevent potential escalations.

Maintaining Regulatory Compliance

It is not only physicians who need to be compliant with regulatory and privacy standards.  Government-sanctioned regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH are in place to improve healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency, including electronic health records and private and secure electronic health information exchange¹. Navigating such regulations is a central concern for IT teams in healthcare. Compliance is an omnipresent pain point that must be consistently reviewed as regulation is updated and cybersecurity threats evolve in sophistication. 

To address this, IT professionals in the healthcare industry must be equipped with the proper tools and training to ensure data security and maintain compliance within a stringent regulatory environment. On the vendor’s side, any third-party looking to work with HIPAA-covered entities must be able to offer a business associate agreement (BAA)².  

Addressing Interoperability Challenges

In a healthcare ecosystem where multiple systems and applications need to seamlessly communicate and share data, interoperability becomes a critical concern for IT professionals. The lack of standardized protocols and siloed information often hinders the efficient or accurate exchange of information, leading to delays in patient care and potential errors.

Embracing interoperability standards such as HL7 and FHIR, investing in interoperable or all-in-one software solutions, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders are crucial steps toward achieving true interoperability.

Ensuring Secure Workflows

A healthcare institution is responsible for some of the most sensitive information in the world. Digitalization and the growing dependence on telehealth increasingly puts sensitive data in a vulnerable position. Cyberattacks can partially or completely shut down a facility, resulting in patient diversion to other facilities and strain on care capacity, causing canceled medical appointments, delayed medical procedures, and risking lives. 

The healthcare industry is a particularly targeted sector due to the high prices cyber criminals will pay for Protected Health Information (PHI). Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations are only increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose data shows a 93% increase in large breaches reported from 2018 to 2022, with a 278% increase in large breaches reported to the department involving ransomware from 2018 to 2022³. Healthcare providers have an extensive and vulnerable attack surface, making cybersecurity for the sector even more complex.  

This necessitates robust remote working solutions that allow teams to have full collaborative capabilities while also maintaining airtight cybersecurity. For healthcare organizations that rely heavily on remote work protocols, deploying secure remote access solutions can aid in the security of sensitive patient, employee, and financial information. These IT teams should pick an all-in-one IT management platform with secure features that support interdisciplinary work between IT teams and the nuanced needs of healthcare workers.

Financial and Technological Constraints

Limited budgets, slow technology upgrades, and legacy systems are universally acknowledged issues for IT teams, but are exacerbated in the healthcare sector. Restricted IT budgets often limit innovation and staffing, leading to overwhelmed teams tasked with the entire organization’s IT success, security, and infrastructural innovation. 

With budgets often stretched thin and resources allocated to critical patient care needs, IT departments must navigate a delicate balance between implementing cutting-edge technologies and managing costs effectively. Moreover, the rapid pace of technological advancements can leave healthcare IT teams struggling to keep up with the latest tools and solutions. As a result, IT professionals find themselves tasked with maximizing the potential of existing infrastructure while seeking innovative ways to overcome financial constraints and embrace emerging technologies. 

In understaffed and under-budgeted departments, IT leaders need to choose cost-effective and time-efficient solutions. Optimizing IT infrastructure for both cost and value production is key to facilitating satisfaction between the IT and finance departments within an organization.

Consolidation of solutions wherever possible will make for a streamlined workflow. Leaders should source all-in-one solutions highlighting integration with, and adaptability to, various tech environments, from legacy systems to modern platforms. By switching to all-in-one solutions that are well-integrated with other platforms, IT pros can save time flipping between redundant software, as well as cut costs and gain more value with a single solution. 

Looking Ahead

In conclusion, the challenges facing IT in the healthcare industry are multifaceted and require proactive solutions to prevent them from escalating into critical issues. By addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities, promoting interoperability, and modernizing legacy systems, healthcare organizations can strengthen their IT infrastructure and better position themselves to deliver high-quality, patient-centered care. Now is the time for healthcare IT professionals to collaborate with stakeholders, leverage innovative technologies, and prioritize investments in IT infrastructure to ensure a safer, more efficient healthcare ecosystem for all.

¹The HIPAA Journal

²The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)

³U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Atera Gil Pekelman
Gil Pekelman
CEO & Co-Founder at Atera

Gil Pekelman is CEO & Co-Founder of Atera.