The Top Three Challenges of Technology in Healthcare
Wireless headphones, robot vacuums and e-readers are three of the most-requested gifts this Christmas. Unlike a few decades ago, technology items permeate the holiday lists of adults and children alike.
Technology continues to be influential in the healthcare industry, too. What started as solutions to aid providers in streamlining workflows to meet government standards has evolved into tools that enable patients to take a more active role in their own health. Does healthcare consumerism sound familiar?
Digital health resources, specifically, offer numerous advantages, such as:
- Easier access to up-to-date data
- Boosted clinician and staff productivity
- Enhanced patient satisfaction
- Decreased physician burnout
- Improved health outcomes
- Greater continuity of care
- Reduced in-office wait times
- Advanced data accuracy and sharing
- Less healthcare waste
- More secure data storage
Barriers to Technology Adoption
If healthcare technology offers so many benefits to medical groups, what’s stopping more of them from adopting it, especially when it gives them a competitive advantage over their competitors? For one, many physician practices and the clinicians they employ are reluctant to make the change to new technology. Often, ancillary staff members are even more resistant to having to learn how to use new solutions.
Finances is another area of concern for some healthcare providers. However, using outdated technology can actually result in more costs for a physician practice through unnecessary maintenance costs, inefficient workflows and increased administrative burden.
Some medical groups worry about the possible compliance issues prompted by the adoption of healthcare technology. There are strict HIPAA rules and regulations that must be adhered to, and non-compliance can be costly in more ways than one. For example, some telehealth platforms require healthcare providers to create multiple accounts and log into multiple systems to perform required actions, leaving more room open for data hacking.
Some healthcare topics are complex. Others, like the challenges of technology, aren’t. That doesn’t mean, though, that medical groups pay enough attention to them and the negative effects they can have on a practice. The first step is understanding the biggest obstacles and the repercussions from not dealing with them.
A Lack of Interoperability
A lack of interoperability has been a problem for more than a decade in the healthcare industry, even though achieving it could save the United States healthcare system more than $30 billion per year. The problem with interoperability in healthcare is that technology solutions developed to streamline workflows and improve provider-patient communication fail to reach their full potential because they don’t enable full data sharing.
Along with being detrimental to patient safety and costly for health systems, some of the consequences of interoperability in healthcare range include increased risks of medication errors, fragmentation of patient data, unnecessary and redundant testing and additional healthcare expenditures. Another problem? It can result in an incomplete understanding of an individual’s or population’s health needs, which can lead to poorer outcomes.
Conversely, when healthcare technology is interoperable, it allows for communication between disparate systems, multiple devices and software systems and enables data to be exchanged and interpreted by hospitals, physician practices, laboratories, pharmacies and other healthcare providers — in a user-friendly way. This interoperability is especially important in producing many of the advantages available through the use of electronic medical records (EMRs), digital health applications and other healthcare tools.
As we mentioned in a previous blog, additional rewards for providers that achieve healthcare interoperability include:
- Improved staff productivity, including less time needed to find and update records
- Reduced paperwork
- Increased patient satisfaction by negating the need for filling out multiple forms for each provider
- Decreased hospital admissions and readmissions
- Enhanced patient engagement
- Lower administrative costs
- Less overlapping of workflows
- Improved regulatory compliance
As we alluded to earlier in this blog, using outdated technology typically means medical groups are conducting reactive fixes to their solutions instead of routine, proactive maintenance. It might be hard to believe, but some physician practices are still utilizing paper-based processes, which come with their own problems.
Want some numbers to back up the cost of using outdated technology? Research has found that clinicians waste an average of 45 minutes per day by utilizing outdated communication technologies, and it’s been estimated that the healthcare industry loses $8.3 billion annually because of it.
Outdated technology often fails to meet patient demand for conveniently access healthcare, from scheduling appointments without having to call the office to checking in before a visit without having to repeatedly verify information and fill out the same forms. It’s hard to meet the needs of healthcare consumerism when patients aren’t the priority!
Healthcare technology that’s not up-to-date is easier to hack, placing both patients and providers at risk. Some outdated technologies reach a point where they can’t be upgraded, even with the best IT team available.
The healthcare industry is fraught with stringent rules and regulation, especially for handling patient data. Failure to comply with them can be costly in terms of monetary penalties, a damaged reputation and a lack of patient trust. The diminished provider reputation might not sound too consequential, but patients who trust their health systems to protect their data likely receive better outcomes.
Digital health tools not designed with appropriate security standards are more at risk for cyberattacks. Healthcare is the second-most cyberattacked industry, and the average financial loss suffered during a healthcare data breach — $9.23 million — is more than double that of the global average across all industries. Cybercriminals employ a variety of methods to profit from medical data, including phishing, malware, ransomware and password spraying.
Technology with a lack of security isn’t only reserved for big IT systems used in medical groups. Healthcare providers are more often doing clinical work through their personal mobile technology, offering increased efficiency and productivity — but putting protected health information (PHI) at more risk.
Technology Tips for Physician Practices
Being attuned to the challenges of adopting new healthcare technology doesn’t mean medical groups should avoid it. It simply means they should adhere to best practices and utilizing solutions that:
- Are designed with patients in mind but also decrease burnout for physicians
- Comply with all required data governance, privacy and security regulations
- Supplement in-person care and virtual care
- Help provide real-time access to data
- Are customizable to meet practice needs
- Can be easily integrated with electronic medical records and existing health system processes
- Securely protect patient data