The Future of Healthcare IT: Balancing Innovation with Safety and Privacy

Updated on March 4, 2024
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As we enter a new year, the healthcare technology landscape continues to evolve with new and maturing technologies including generative AI, machine learning, telehealth and telemedicine and augmented reality. This evolution will challenge health IT professionals to keep pace through continuous research, education and application of these technologies.  

Planning for 2024

To achieve success in this rapidly evolving industry, health IT professionals should include in their 2024 plans a focus on:

Artificial Intelligence: AI is in its infancy and many organizations are experimenting with AI enabled use-cases to drive business value. Health IT professionals must partner with business stakeholders to drive AI benefits, while maintaining appropriate security and compliance standards.  

Cybersecurity: Health IT professionals need to incorporate cybersecurity best practices into all areas of the business to effectively protect sensitive data from security threats. A formal cybersecurity program can provide a framework for managing emerging security threats. 

Interoperability: Healthcare systems no longer operate standalone. Standards like the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource are enabling interoperability, which delivers healthcare data exchange between different systems. Adoption and management of interoperability are required to compete in the healthcare services industry.

Patient Experience: Applying technology such as patient portals to enable communication and self-service can improve the overall patient experience, improve patient engagement, and drive operational efficiency. Portals provide the patient with around-the-clock access to messaging, scheduling and billing and payment capabilities, which reduce administrative burden and enhance the patient experience. Health IT professionals must design and build these systems with strict adherence to privacy and data security regulations.

Ensuring Data Security and Addressing Threats

Cybercriminals continue to develop more sophisticated and creative ways to steal sensitive data. Zero-day exploits, deepfake threats, and ransomware attacks are on the rise with catastrophic consequences. Health IT leaders must instill vigilance in their organizations through policies, practices and continual education and training. Staying informed about evolving regulations, standards and laws are a required prerequisite to any successful cybersecurity program.

Health IT leaders must partner with business leaders to establish and enforce security policies. Leaders should take the time to research emerging threats and incorporate those changes into their security program.  

Regular risk assessments should be performed to identify vulnerabilities and corrective actions should be prioritized. Health IT leaders should develop comprehensive incident response plans and test those plans to ensure the organization is prepared to handle security threats.

As cybersecurity crime continues to emerge, health IT leaders must develop a comprehensive program to address those threats. The security program must include foundational security practices to reduce risk such as multi-factor authentication, data encryption, patch management and software updates, network segmentation and ongoing employee awareness training.  

A mature security program should include the adoption of systems and services for continuous threat monitoring and intrusion detection. Those systems will allow IT leaders to detect unusual activities in near-real time, improving response time and decreasing the overall risk to the organization.  

Health IT leaders should consider the adoption of a cybersecurity framework (ex. NIST) to enhance the organization’s cybersecurity maturity. Engaging with third party security experts to conduct regular security audits can help the heath IT leader continually evolve their security program and roadmap.

Balancing Innovation with Compliance and Patient Safety

Executives should promote a culture of innovation throughout the organization by recognizing and rewarding solutions that advance the company.  Through a culture of innovation, health IT professionals can better partner with business stakeholders to define and implement projects that align with corporate objectives and ensure patient safety and regulatory compliance.

Health IT professionals should engage with the stakeholders from the start, including legal and compliance, to define candidate transformation projects. As projects are selected, they should be piloted to assess their overall impact. Projects that pass the pilot period can then be developed in an iterative approach to deliver incremental business value with each iteration.  

Approved innovation projects should prioritize patient safety and compliance. Security design must be incorporated into the solution to protect patient data. Including a range of stakeholders, such as business stakeholders and healthcare providers, and incorporating patient feedback early in the process, can decrease the risk to the project and lead to better results.  

As projects are delivered, the results should be monitored and measured. Defining key performance indicators related to patient safety and compliance as part of the solution provides a baseline for measuring results. Incorporating patient feedback into product designs can drive continuous product improvement.  

Amidst a rapidly changing healthcare technology landscape, health IT teams are presented with more challenges and considerations than ever before. As healthcare IT teams outline their plans for 2024, it’s imperative to focus on the key areas of artificial intelligence and interoperability standards, cybersecurity threat mitigation, and regulatory compliance and patient safety. It is possible to foster innovation and drive digital transformation within healthcare organizations while also valuing the need for compliance, safety, privacy and strong security policies. 

John Johnson
John Johnson
Chief Information Officer at Savista

John Johnson is the Chief Information Officer at Savista.