Digital Health: 5 Healthcare IT Issues That Get in the Way of Clinicians and Patient Care

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By Joel Stocker, ControlUp Director of Product Marketing

While the pandemic caused companies to find new ways to conduct business and meet customer needs, the healthcare industry was forced to navigate new logistical considerations as growing numbers of work-from-home clinicians began seeing patients virtually. Over time, it’s become clear that the work-from-anywhere dynamic is here to stay. Numerous data points support today’s burgeoning virtual healthcare market. For example, 82 percent of consumers now view digital options as the best way to monitor their health. Seventy-four percent of millennials say they prefer telehealth visits to in-person doctor exams, and 52.5 percent of clinicians find that treatment is more effective with virtual healthcare versus in-office treatment.

With the adoption of ehealth services skyrocketing, medical teams need to examine how well the technology and virtual access work to provide quality patient care and give clinicians the technology tools they need to support this approach.

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With virtualization comes many benefits that appropriately check the boxes for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) compliance, consistent clinician experiences, simplified access, and extended reach of care. But technology cannot optimize for every potential problem as hospital information systems, hospital data centers, and clinicians’ virtual desktops provide a constant stream of logon and application load time issues, slowdowns, outages, latency, and more. Those issues become compounded when patients and clinicians with work-from-anywhere connections pull from disparate systems that function independently without sharing data, which can cripple efficiencies and create friction for end-users.

5 Ways Technology Gets In The Way And What to Do About it

While the reported benefits of telehealth far outweigh the cons, some consistent disadvantages are creating problems for healthcare staff, clinicians, and patients alike. The top five most-reported technology issues that decrease productivity and engagement include:

  • Slow logons in end-user computing environments: Since we live in a world of immediacy, slow logons are frustrating and painful. In healthcare, time lost is even more critical since every second of waiting takes time away from patient care. With various factors at play, isolating and troubleshooting can be difficult and time-consuming and cause friction for clinicians. Pinpointing the technology responsible for the delays will reduce logon times and frustration while increasing clinician productivity.
  • Application availability and performance issues: Many critical patient care applications have dependencies from both internal and external resources between hospital information systems and hospital data systems. As reliance on these resources continues to grow, there are bound to be performance issues placed on any system. Proactively understanding the health of virtual applications and desktops will ensure applications perform correctly and resources are available when they are needed.
  • Work-from-anywhere issues: When clinicians work from home, they can tap into poor internet speeds and WiFi signals with varying signal strengths and bandwidths. Since every household setup is different, working from anywhere comes with challenges that are unique to each user. Capturing detailed information about a clinician’s digital experience makes it easy to determine if they need to upgrade their home ISP or move closer to their WiFi router. 
  • Unified communications issues: Countless collaboration tools and different communication systems like Zoom, MS Teams, and more are regularly used by healthcare organizations. Overused resources, latency, and bandwidth consumption are just a few potential performance suspects that might impede optimization and create a less than desired experience for clinicians. Synthetic testing can ensure that unified communication applications run as expected and send alerts when the services are experiencing problems.
  • Slow virtual sessions: In today’s fast-paced world, slow technology disrupts the workflow and decreases engagement. Virtual desktops that perform slowly–delivered from the data center or cloud through Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft platforms–are typically the result of a deeper cause, e.g., bandwidth issues, network latency, fragmented disks, virtual machine sprawl, CPU limitations, or out-of-date tools. Troubleshooting to find the problem can mean life and death in healthcare. Observing and comparing clinicians’ key metrics in real-time can resolve these matters. Once data is analyzed against averages, bottlenecks become easier to remove.

Creating Better Digital Experiences for Clinicians & Patients

Florida Cancer Specialists and eHealth NSW experienced these issues and more as the pandemic shifted the way their clinicians interacted with patients.

Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS), one of the largest clinical research organizations in the U.S., built its national reputation for excellence on providing exceptional and compassionate patient care. They also approach their employee’s experiences with the same care because they know their teams play a critical role in patient outcomes. With nearly all their applications running on Citrix-based environments, an outage impacted everyone with lost time and money. (They estimate that they lose around $25,000 for every hour of downtime.) With an increase in slow logons and downtimes, combined with growing virtual healthcare sessions for clinicians and patients, FCS started looking for “problem child” applications, as well as work-from-home users that were accidentally causing technology to get in the way. Similarly, eHealth NSW, Australia’s largest public health system with over 100,000 end-users, had multiple systems with alerts and monitoring. Still, none provided meaningful data to help the clinicians and patients meet their needs without friction. 

With the right monitoring tools in place, both FCS and eHealth learned that capturing detailed information, including NIC speed, WiFi signal strength, and LAN latency, would allow their IT teams to determine the location and remediation needed for each problem. With improvements to their virtual desktop infrastructure environments, they realized how monitoring and optimization needed to become part of the continuous healthcare IT life cycle.

Understanding how everything works together finds both healthcare companies making great strides in reducing logon duration and cutting login times from over a minute to ten seconds. With near-instant insights simplifying their ability to find and fix problems, clinicians can stay productive without missing a beat. In turn, they are creating consistent positive digital experiences for their staff, clinicians, and patients, so technology no longer gets in the way.

Joel Stocker is Head of Product Marketing at ControlUp, a leading Digital Employee Experience management software provider that powers the work-from-anywhere world to make remote work more flexible and reliable. 

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.

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