The 2020 pandemic brought many issues for the healthcare industry, from hospitals overwhelmed by the amount of patients to a shortage of masks and sanitary items for healthcare workers, but among those issues was the challenges of the advancing technology demands on healthcare. From a rapidly growing IoT market to constantly advancing cyberthreats, IT professionals in healthcare had their hands full with researching, evaluating, and implementing strategies to tackle the technological challenges of last year.
Oversharing with IoT
The global IoT healthcare market is growing at an astounding rate. In fact, a recent report showed that it is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%. More healthcare facilities are adopting connected medical devices and equipment, however, this causes more targets, more risks, and more endpoints for healthcare IT professionals to manage, protect, and continually monitor.
This, coupled with the fact that Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices have largely unquestioned access to the sensitive data stored on healthcare facilities’ networks, makes them a desired target for cybercriminals. Additionally, most IoMT devices do not have security features embedded into them and have an increased risk of human error, such as absence of audit logs, unauthorized access control or even a lack of processes surrounding the device’s use.
Overworked IT Staff
The demands put on healthcare IT staff are more than the standard IT professional has to deal with. Ensuring that equipment and technology is being correctly installed, upgraded, and maintained can sometimes mean the difference between saving and endangering a patient’s life. Healthcare facilities collect, store, process, and analyze large amounts of big data and the task to constantly maintain this infrastructure falls on the IT staff. In addition, healthcare IT staff must support a wide variety of tech, including digital imaging, telemedicine, robotics, and other advanced devices and technologies specialized for healthcare.
With the boom in IoMT and other advanced healthcare technologies, IT staff are being spread thin, making it difficult to carry out their daily tasks. Healthcare IT staff are also expected to ensure that systems are meeting several government regulations, such as federal IT incentive payment program upgrades, government audits of the federal electronic health records (EHR), and updated diagnostic and procedural codes (ICD-10). Furthermore, they must deliver all of this while implementing new software programs, developing mobile applications and providing training to new staff members.
As we start the new year, healthcare facilities need to take note of the challenges that 2020 brought them and invest in solutions to tackle them. While there is no one-stop solution, outsourcing and making use of managed services and professional services is recommended.
A third-party vendor can handle maintenance tasks such as rolling out software updates and monitoring IT systems, therefore freeing up more time for internal IT staff to focus on strategic initiatives. Also, a third-party vendor with expertise and experience in specific areas could handle more complicated tasks such as cloud migrations and disaster recovery (DR). Healthcare IT staff usually do not possess the in-depth experience in these areas and using a third-party vendor for these tasks ensures that the staff carrying out these tasks are equipped with the knowledge of what works and doesn’t work. This results in healthcare facilities saving time and money and being in a better position to realize positive outcomes.
Third-party vendors usually bring with them an array of products and services that not only amplify business operations, but also ensure that organizations are secure and protected from the latest cyberthreats and are able to operate within government regulations. Taking the stress of security and regulations from IT staff allows them to focus on tasks that ensure the continuous operation and betterment of their healthcare facility.
Overall, last year brought many challenges for the healthcare industry due to the pandemic and ever-advancing technology. While 2021 has a bright outlook in regards to the pandemic, technologies will continue to advance, cyberattacks will continue to evolve, and more government regulations will be implemented. Healthcare facilities that employ their-party vendors for maintenance tasks, regulatory operations, cybersecurity and complex work (such as cloud migration), are placing themselves one step ahead of the struggles that may come with the new year. As deploying vaccines and returning to normal operations will be the main focus on health organizations this year, offloading some of the stress that internal IT staff may experience to third-party vendors enables business goals to more successfully be met.