Posted by:Monica Samuel September 4th, 2012

The healthcare industry in USA is in a state of flux – coping with the changes in HIPAA, implementation of electronic health record (EHR) software, and various other technological advancements. CIOs have their work cut out, devising an IT strategy that ensures compliance, cost reduction, and security while ramping up healthcare systems before looming deadlines.

Reforming the healthcare system – Challenges

Developing, modifying, enhancing or even tinkering with healthcare management systems is fraught with challenges for IT teams. The complicated process has become worse for healthcare industry CIOs by recent developments such as:

  • ‘Meaningful use’ of EHR by 2014, proposed in the HITECH Act of 2009 (Stage 1).
  • State HIEs helping with sharing of healthcare data across proprietary EHR systems, and working with existing HIEs having different work policies.
  • Setting up a health insurance exchange by 2014 so consumers can buy insurance on the open market – requires content management, ecommerce, CRM and portals.
  • Robust clinical data analytics and patient engagement to support the ‘accountable care organization,’ a partnership among providers for giving patients less expensive but coordinated healthcare.
  • Processing Big Data for analysis, disease detection and prevention exercises, and sharing of best practices for rehabilitation and recovery.
  • Stricter HIPAA rules mandate organizations investing in encryption technology for the security of personal health information (PHI). Healthcare reform sets a 2014 deadline for electronic fund transfer compliance.
  • Implementing a security policy to support BYOD policy in hospitals, strongly enforcing identity and access management (in case of shared devices), device security (remote wipe in case of theft or loss, encrypted storage and transmission), etc.
  • Implementing a reliable and strong wireless network for healthcare workers to use critical applications and medical devices anywhere in the hospital despite signal blockers such as radiology departments, stacked stores, bathrooms, elevators, etc.
  • Supporting telemedicine with teleconferencing in exam rooms, etc.
  • Making personal health record services user-friendly for patients.
  • Supporting mobile health initiatives – mobile applications, patient engagement, etc.
  • Supporting SAN technology for simplified storage of hospital records via virtualized storage, thin provisioning, tiered storage, and data replication.
  • Exploring Cloud services for disaster and recovery planning, and storing medical images, records or appointment schedules.
  • Keeping up with diagnostic code sets. America is still on IDC-9, and has to move to IDC-10 by October, 2014. Meanwhile, World Health Organization plans to have ICD-11 ready by 2015.
Probable solutions

There are no easy solutions for CIOs in the healthcare industry as the applications are mammoth, complicated, and highly expensive projects. However, CIOs can cut costs and simplify processes to a degree by considering third parties that offer inexpensive solutions for if not all, individual modules while assuring legal and regulatory compliance. Some hospitals are looking at cloud-based EHR systems to reduce infrastructure and resource costs. Some providers are offering dedicated private clouds to hospitals for higher security.

(The information in this article has been compiled from a report on InfoWorld titled Top Challenges Facing Healthcare CIOs.)

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