Information technology (IT) failures in healthcare practices can have catastrophic results, potentially leading to data breaches, identity theft, fines for HIPAA violations, ransomware attacks, or loss of patient information, among others. Unfortunately, many practices lack the time, staff, and expertise to effectively manage their own IT systems. In some cases, healthcare providers do not even realize that they are at risk of serious healthcare IT failures until it’s too late.
Below are five of the most common red flags for such potential failures that we’ve seen in healthcare practices. If any of these warning signs sound familiar, it’s time to take steps to upgrade your healthcare IT services, solutions, and support.
1. You lack a strategy for managing and protecting health information
In 2019, more than 41 million patient records were breached, and that figure is likely to rise in 2020. While use of electronic health records (EHRs) can improve diagnoses and reduce medical errors, they are vulnerable to cyberattack. Data security can also be compromised by issues with system interoperability. EHR systems are not always readily compatible with other healthcare IT solutions, meaning that matching patient records can be a major headache for healthcare practices. The resulting workarounds not only jeopardize patient care, but they can also expose patient data to security breaches.
If you don’t have a plan in place for how to manage, aggregate, and protect your patients' electronic health information, you’re placing your practice and patients at risk. A specialist healthcare IT services provider will be able to help you integrate your various patient data sources into a more comprehensive and secure system, using encryption to help keep your data management compliant with HIPAA regulations.
2. You don’t regularly review and update your HIPAA compliance policies and procedures
If you work in healthcare, you already know that HIPAA regulations are complex and demanding. Many security breaches happen because of staff members who are uninformed about proper practices or organizational negligence. In addition to making sure your team is current on the latest rules and guidelines, you also need to keep your systems protected. If you don’t have a process in place to regularly review and complete updates to your antivirus and antimalware software, firewalls, backups, hardware, and systems access, you may well be putting your practice at risk of a security breach and possibly non-compliance fines. You should also be managing your company mobile devices and any company hardware that leaves the premises, such as employee laptops.
Even if you already have an in-house IT team, this staff may not be aware of the latest HIPAA guidelines and how they impact data management. An IT provider with specialist knowledge of HIPAA compliance is a must for keeping your practice protected.
3. You don’t have a plan for ensuring continuity of patient care during system downtime
Healthcare facilities are increasingly dependent on information technology for almost all aspects of patient care. Despite the ever-growing importance of healthcare IT solutions, surveys reveal that over 96% of healthcare organizations have experienced at least one instance of unplanned system downtime. Such downtime can have a major impact on patient care. HIMSS reports that, in some cases, patient injury can directly result from downtime. The Ponemon Institute also found that system downtime can cost healthcare facilities between $7,000 and $17,000 per minute.
There are multiple causes of unplanned downtime in healthcare settings, including network issues, software failure, power failure, incorrect computer configuration, and other healthcare IT failures; extreme weather conditions; and human error. Preventing serious fallout for patients from unforeseen downtime requires a comprehensive strategy that includes procedures for both IT staff and clinical staff. If you partner with a healthcare managed IT services provider, its staff should be able to help you minimize the frequency of unplanned downtime and create processes to reduce the duration of downtime if an incident does occur.
4. You haven’t recently updated your backup and disaster recovery systems
With practices increasingly reliant on health data to power their operations, the need to protect that data from loss, corruption, and theft becomes increasingly more important. Further, data backup is a compliance issue for the healthcare sector: HIPAA regulations require that providers maintain a backup copy of all patient data.
However, too many healthcare practices are still relying on outdated technology to back up their patient data. External hard drives and magnetic tape drive are simply not up to the job of managing the volume of data involved in modern-day healthcare. With cyberattacks targeting healthcare practices on the rise, providers relying on old systems face a serious risk of losing access to patient data. And with the loss of patient data comes a loss of patient trust — and possibly even damage to patient treatment.
Today’s dedicated healthcare backup solutions help keep patient data safe, back it up offsite in an encrypted and secure format, and better ensure that it’s readily available for restoration at any time. Unlike portable hard drives or tapes, these systems don’t require someone in the office to remember to manually back up patient data. Your data security essentially becomes automatic, reducing risk of human error. Data is stored in ways that help ensure HIPAA compliance and reduce the likelihood that you will access to your patient data.
5. You don’t have a plan for responding to a cyberattack
We say when, rather than if, for good reason: Seventy-five percent of all healthcare organizations globally have been targeted by cybercriminals. The longer your practice is in operation, the more likely it is that you will experience a cyberattack. Phishing, malware, and web-based attacks are all frequent, and cyberattacks are becoming more targeted, more sophisticated, and more extensive, according to research by the Ponemon Institute. Despite all this, fewer than half of the healthcare practices surveyed have a plan for responding to an attack.
The cybersecurity risks in the healthcare industry are growing at such a rate that most internal IT teams are not able to keep up. Many practices are also unaware of how vulnerable their employees are to phishing scams and other attempts at fraud. And, when your practice is attacked, your in-house IT team may be overwhelmed responding to the fallout.
If you don’t know how resilient your practice would be if it experienced an attack, find out. A managed healthcare IT services provider can run phishing simulations, vulnerability scans, and risk assessments to expose potential vulnerabilities in your security systems. This gives you the chance to identify opportunities for improvement, including pinpointing any additional training your employees need, that will help make sure your data and your practice stay safe, secure, and compliant.
Overcoming Healthcare IT Failures: Partnering With a Healthcare IT Expert
If you’re looking for a managed services provider that specializes in the unique challenges facing the healthcare industry, look no further. At Medicus IT, we provide preventive, strategic, and deeply experienced IT services and support that turn technology from a burden into a benefit for medical practices, ambulatory surgery centers, and other healthcare organizations. To find out if you’re missing any healthcare IT failure warning signs, click here to schedule a free assessment with a Medicus IT healthcare specialist.