Healthcare systems around the world came under unprecedented strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Overcrowded hospitals and long waiting lists alongside difficulties conducting face-to-face consultations and tracking the spread of the virus presented extreme challenges that demanded innovative approaches.
To respond to these difficulties, the healthcare industry increasingly turned to IT solutions, such as telehealth appointments and mobile applications, to provide sorely needed services.
This, however, simply marked the acceleration of a trend that had already begun. The digital transformation of healthcare had already taken root, helping to ensure better patient care, improved data management, and more powerful tools for healthcare analytics and informatics.
This transformation is still in motion, and much about IT’s role in healthcare remains unclear.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role of IT in healthcare, looking at the benefits of increased IT services in the healthcare industry as well as the challenges healthcare organizations face in setting up and managing an IT infrastructure that’s fit for purpose.
What is the role of IT in healthcare?
IT refers to the use of computers, telecommunications and software systems to store, access and share information.
Its most understood applications in healthcare are electronic health records, e-prescriptions and digital monitoring tools that allow patients and healthcare practitioners to track biometric information.
In the past, such tasks were performed manually, and measurements were taken and conveyed in writing before being stored away in a filing cabinet.
Nowadays, healthcare facilities are high-tech operations, offering a more streamlined, high-quality service. The shift to digital records has made record-keeping more efficient and easier to access for both healthcare professionals as well as patients, while digital monitoring allows for real-time information sharing that’s increasingly accurate.
IT’s role in healthcare goes far beyond front-end services for patients though. It is also crucial to back-end functions, making it easier for healthcare organizations to schedule appointments, verify insurance claims and process bills.
What are the benefits of IT in healthcare?
The primary purpose of IT in healthcare is to improve patient care and privacy through better communication and increased coordination of services and tools.
When implemented effectively, it ensures numerous benefits for both patients and healthcare workers.
1. Financial Savings
While IT infrastructure always presents up-front costs, the financial benefits, in the long run, are substantial.
This is primarily due to efficiency savings. According to a study, 25 percent of healthcare spending is effectively wasted, and two of the main culprits for this are administrative complexity and failure to coordinate care.
IT services are no silver bullet to systemic problems, but they can be invaluable tools for simplifying administrative procedures and strengthening the coordination of care services.
2. Quicker Lab Results
Most people are familiar with the agonizing wait for lab test results, but turnaround time and patient communication have improved dramatically in recent years thanks to IT services.
A 2019 survey found that 75 percent of laboratory technicians said IT services had enabled them to process lab results and issue the results faster than with conventional methods.
3. Fewer Malpractice Claims
Doctors that use electronic health records face 84 percent fewer malpractice claims compared with those who use paper records, according to a Reuters study from Massachusetts.
The New England Journal Of Medicine (NEJM) further claimed that IT in healthcare may “increase the availability of documentation with which to defend or prove a malpractice claim.”
4. Faster Record Auditing and Prescriptions
Research from Intel revealed that healthcare facilities with IT systems spend on average 1.4 hours auditing patient records, compared to 3.9 hours in facilities that use paper records.
Meanwhile, the same research reported that 82 percent of healthcare professionals think e-prescriptions have saved them time and effort.
5. Integrated Healthcare Services
Increasingly, national healthcare bodies around the world are integrating healthcare services into one online platform or application that every patient can access for a comprehensive overview of what is available to them and how they can make use of it.
This helps to make what is an incredibly complex network of services comprehensible and, therefore, more available to patients.
What IT challenges do healthcare organizations face?
The benefits of IT services to the healthcare industry may be clear, but this doesn’t mean its adoption is inevitable or takes place evenly across organizations.
There are numerous barriers preventing healthcare institutions and organizations from adopting IT services. This ultimately makes them less competitive, offering lower quality patient care and less security than other providers.
Here are the main challenges healthcare organizations face in adopting IT services.
1. Security Breaches and Failures
Electronic health records are more efficient but they are also vulnerable to cyberattacks and thefts. Multiple healthcare organizations servicing millions of patients have suffered from security breaches in recent years.
Ransomware attacks are also becoming increasingly problematic. Managing and maintaining a secure electronic health record database is a huge challenge many healthcare organizations fear they may be ill-equipped to handle.
2. Complexity of Advanced Healthcare Technology
Increasingly sophisticated healthcare devices that utilize Internet of Things (IoT) technology offer untold benefits for patient care. However, ties with software companies developing programs for such devices can be lacking, and many healthcare organizations might not know where to start to forge such links and make use of the services.
3. Data Volumes and Incorporation
Healthcare organizations collect and store vast amounts of patient and clinical data, but often data management and analytical systems that can better inform decision-making in a safe, efficient way are lacking.
4. Prohibitive Costs
Up-front costs for IT infrastructure, services, and a dedicated team can add up very quickly, as can IT training costs for healthcare practitioners. Healthcare management teams may find this hard to justify at the expense of investing in immediate patient care.
5. Network Blind Spots
Network blind spots in IT healthcare typically emerge as a result of mergers and acquisitions between healthcare companies, creating network integration issues.
Downtime due to an IT network malfunction is damaging for any organization but especially so for healthcare organizations where an inability to provide patient services or acess patient records simply isn’t an option.
How a managed IT service provider can help healthcare organizations overcome these challenges
A managed IT services provider (MSP) is a third-party organization that assumes responsibility for some or all of another organization’s IT services and infrastructure.
An MSP has the technology and expertise to align an organization’s IT infrastructure and services with its overarching goals.
For healthcare organizations, making use of an MSP means they have access to leading IT technology and professionals without having to invest in equipment and training. All it involves is a monthly subscription payment, with terms and requirements laid out in a service level agreement.
Vertikal 6 offers advanced IT solutions using proprietary technologies and time-tested strategies that will optimize your operational efficiency, leaving you to focus on patient care.
Get in touch with us for a free quote and to find out how we can help your healthcare organization.