Irina Linnik - Digital Specialist April 3rd, 2020

Digitizing Your Healthcare Processes: Top Issues to Consider

The healthcare industry is focused on saving people’s lives and maintaining our well-being so it’s critical to empower it with the latest technologies. From electronic health records to AI-powered virtual nurses, healthcare is now undergoing a massive technological transformation.

Terms like telemedicine, telenursing, teletherapy and many more are becoming more widespread and common.

It can be rather tempting to rush into digitization, especially considering all the benefits that it brings. However, there are certain issues that need to be considered in order to implement a really valuable and suitable solution.

Security of the data

The healthcare industry processes incredibly massive amounts of sensitive patients’ data on a daily basis. At the same time, statistics reveal that this industry is the most affected by the data breaches and in 2019, over 60% of the personal data breaches were caused by a human error, including response to phishing emails and loss of paper records.

One should be really familiar with what HIPAA is, before start working with sensitive patient health information. The tools that are being utilized for medical purposes should be HIPAA compliant, that's why we started to hear the terms like HIPAA compliant software, HIPAA compliant file sharing, HIPAA compliant text messaging, etc.

Thus, if you think about digitizing your processes and patients’ records management, the first thing to pay attention to is data security. Once you transfer the data from paper records into digital format, you will expose it to both external and internal threats. Here are a few recommendations on safeguarding the data.

Implement automation 

One of the primary causes of the data leak is incorrect data management like sending a patient’s record to a wrong receiver. To prevent such mistakes and mitigate the possible risks, it is highly recommended to automate all possible data-related processes such as data input in the system and data exchange processes. As well, automation of data retrieval and input will contribute to better data quality, which, in turn, will impact the incorrect decisions that are based on this data.

Secure the data exchange process

When the data is being exchanged online, there is always a possibility of a hacker’s attack. To minimize the chances of data theft and to keep your channels secure, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Use VPN,
  • Use SSL/TLS protocols,
  • Use two-factor authentication,
  • Encrypt the data and store all the passwords in an encrypted format,
  • Use REST API for API protection,
  • Use authentication for the APIs.

These are the most common ways to protect the process of data transmission. As well, pay extreme attention to the database security and user roles and their level of access.

Big Data management

Big Data means an incredibly large volume of data that a business proceeds on a daily basis. Big Data includes data from all possible sources such as medical records, social media, wearables, and contains information in different sizes and formats.

One cannot underestimate the role of Big Data in modern healthcare. Some of the most significant applications of Big Data are:

  • Predictive analytics and prevention of diseases (i.e. cancer prevention),
  • Faster and more accurate research of new treatments,
  • More accurate diagnosis,
  • Computer vision for disease detection.

And don’t forget that Big Data serves as a cornerstone for Machine Learning, which, in turn, is used to design highly personalized virtual assistants for the patients and the doctors and is deployed in multiple ways. There are multiple trending AI and Machine Learning technologies evolving in healthcare.

So what are the biggest challenges in Big Data implementation and management? 

First, you need to decide how you are going to collect the data and which sources you will be using. It is preferable to automate the process of data collection in order to save time and resources. Second, all the collected data needs to be “cleaned”: meaning, it has to be in one format, has no missing values, etc. As well, you will have to choose the suitable tools for data collection, cleaning, parsing, and analysis. 

In order to overcome these challenges, you need to carefully evaluate the available resources (such as finances and IT infrastructure) and craft a thorough plan on implementing Big Data management.

Choice of the needed platform

Digitization means turning your healthcare processes into digital format and that means, you will need a suitable platform to manage them. It can be a CRM platform, an EHR platform, online consultation platforms, and much more - the choice is really big. So once you decide to adopt such a platform, here are the questions that you will need to answer:

  • What is the primary goal of using this platform?
  • What exact functions does it have to have?
  • What are the requirements for the platform?
  • Who will be using the platform?

As well, you will need to choose between a ready product or a custom solution. The biggest advantage of a readymade product is its affordable cost and immediate availability but the product might lack some features that are critical for you. A custom solution, on the other hand, will be tailored precisely to your needs but will cost much more and will also take a significant amount of time to be developed.

Employee training

Healthcare is a rather conservative industry and many healthcare institutions and companies are still not ready for a change. One of the reasons for that lies in the mindset of the people who work in these facilities so one of the primary issues to address during digitization is training and education.

You will need to determine who will be involved in the digital transformation and what roles and responsibilities each user will have. As well, you will need to organize sufficient training to ensure that everyone understands how new technology functions. This is an absolute must in order to prevent human errors and technology malfunction.

Last but not least is informing everyone across the organization about the upcoming change and emphasizing the value and importance of this new adoption. When people do not fully understand a certain concept, they tend to neglect it and that means, the adoption of new technology will bring zero change to your processes.

Focus on the value

The biggest temptation for any company or organization is to rush into adopting an innovative technology without fully comprehending the value behind it. So the big question here: do you really need to digitize your processes?

In most cases, it would be a definite yes since digitization helps healthcare become more accurate, efficient, and value-centric. At the same time, many companies do not really need to adopt Machine Learning, Big Data processing tools, or AI-powered devices. What they need most of the time is facilitating and speeding up their processes by simply transforming the paper records into electronic ones or adopting a system that would keep all the data and facilitate communication between the medical specialists.

So before planning the next big step, outline the value that your patients and your employees will receive from this implementation. Only after that, you will be able to come up with a solid strategy for the next steps and will remain within the budget and set deadlines.

Photo credit: pch.vector / Freepik

Irina Linnik - Digital Specialist

Irina Linnik is a tech writer at SoftTeco, a company that designs custom software products for enterprise clients. With over 8 years of experience in copywriting, Irina always strives to create a compelling copy that informs the readers about the latest technological trends in an engaging and clear manner.

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