The pandemic has surfaced new IT challenges for CIOs in the healthcare industry while deepening existing ones, giving rise to medtech companies and vertical-specific solutions from major tech companies. Tech has risen to the challenge of helping healthcare providers, insurers, and other stakeholders craft a cohesive patient care experience, even as challenges remain.
CIOs in the healthcare sector are confronted with challenges related to patient data, security, and more, but there are tech solutions in the works to address those hurdles.
Top 6 IT challenges in healthcare
1. Data management and integration
As clinics and hospitals digitize their work processes, the ability to integrate different types of data from a variety of sources remains a persistent IT challenge in healthcare.
Data types include:
- Notes or transcripts from patient visits
- Insurance information
- Treatment plans
- Lab results
- Health history
- Vitals data from remote monitoring devices, such as wearables
Each type of data in a patient’s file may come from different sources, as patients often visit various specialists at partnering facilities. Healthcare providers need electronic health records (EHR) software to see all of a patient’s relevant healthcare data in one place. This improves diagnostic processes, treatment plans, and patient outcomes.
Solutions such as Kareo and Amazing Charts EHR consolidate patient data from a variety of data sources in one central portal.
For comprehensive medical data management solutions, also read: Best EHR Software Systems of 2022
2. Seamless billing processes
Confusing and inefficient billing processes can lead to frustrated patients and partners and a shortfall in revenue. Medical billing software offers simplified account and invoice management, financial forecasting, and automation capabilities that save time. Kantime and forthcoming Cerner product RevElate offer flexible, easy-to-use invoicing and revenue cycle management.
Kantime also features in-patient and out-patient split billing in light of a new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule that went into effect on January 1, 2022. The rule makes billing codes more nuanced to account for visits to non-physician practitioners (NPP). The refined policy strives to make the conditions of Medicare disbursements clearer, save patients money, and make care more accessible. CIOs therefore need software that helps them stay current with changing regulations in the healthcare sector.
Standards for billing, equipment maintenance, and software updates are just a few examples of a constantly evolving regulatory landscape. Though compliance measures are in place to keep patients and their data safe, it presents a legal landmine that CIOs in the healthcare sector have to navigate.
Vanta and Cervey are a couple of solution providers that keep medical practices and healthcare businesses compliant. Arena, for example, provides a specialized quality management system that helps medical device manufacturers ensure their equipment meets specific regulations, such as ISO 3485.
4. Security and privacy
Compliance standards largely focus on security and privacy of patient data to prevent identity theft, fraud, and misdiagnosis. According to the HIPAA Journal’s Data Breach report, 50 healthcare data breaches affecting 500 or more patient records were recorded in January 2022.
Medical device equipment in particular, such as MRI and CT scan machines, has been an acute point of vulnerability. This equipment has run on legacy systems at the expense of software updates that fortify it against hacks. Long-term hardware, such as X-ray machines, has thus seen a jump in tech advancements to incorporate protective software.
With the growth of patient portals and telehealth services, patients and providers are increasingly using their personal smart devices to access a hospital or practice’s network in order to access patient data. Moreover, vitals tracking devices, such as heart rate or glucose monitors are now connected to the internet. This enables doctors to remotely monitor patients and save costs on both sides. While convenient, the BYOD and IoT trends in healthcare present a greater potential attack surface for malicious actors.
Network visibility, monitoring, segmentation, and rigorous testing are a few of the many methods to keep patient data secure and private. Vendors like Keysight and Paessler have products to keep healthcare IT secure.
5. Telehealth infrastructure
Telehealth as a form of remote immediate care has put onerous demand on healthcare IT infrastructure and security to support such services.
Budding in popularity since 2020, telehealth is not only likely to stay but become more advanced in the future. Well over half of medical providers surveyed by BCG predict that up to 60 percent of patient-doctor interactions will be conducted virtually within the next five years.
This trend expands healthcare access, prevents illness transmission, and is convenient. However, as patient data becomes more distributed across third-party applications, like telehealth communication portals, using personal devices presents security and compliance issues.
To address security and compliance concerns with telehealth apps, Finoit specializes in building secure and compliant mobile apps and web services for a range of verticals, including telehealth providers. This is a great solution for practices with highly specialized needs that require a customized app. Welkin also features medtech products that help providers navigate complex telehealth compliance procedures.
Read more about remote AI diagnostic tools at TechnologyAdvice: How Image AI for Healthcare Improves Patient Experience
6. Equitable access
With all the progress made in healthcare IT, a so-called digital divide in healthcare persists. Focusing on the US in particular, some demographics don’t reap the same benefits of healthcare technology as others.
This is due to a variety of factors, from AI bias to geographic and socioeconomic determinants. For example, data from 2019 reveals that 42 million people lack access to high-speed internet, and 30 percent of individuals making less than $30,000 a year do not have a smartphone. This means that low-income individuals and those living in areas that lack adequate infrastructure cannot use telehealth apps to their full potential or not at all.
To address disparities in access to medical technology, Microsoft has started AI for Health. In this program, Microsoft grants organizations and programs funding for projects that improve access to healthcare for underserved populations, among other initiatives.
Tech and healthcare are partners in the long-run
Tech and healthcare continue to make a powerful partnership to address major technological hurdles and, in the end, deliver the best possible patient care.
Challenges the healthcare industry faces include data management, security, and equitable access. Medtech companies are rising to the occasion, innovating and evolving their solutions for the healthcare vertical.
Embracing technology has become a must for healthcare providers who want to remain adaptable to a changing healthcare landscape. CIOs are in a critical position to stay abreast of emerging medtech and implement the right solutions to optimize patient care.
Read next: Why Healthcare Risk Management Is Important