Healthcare News & Insights

Should hospitals stop focusing on IT innovation?

Is it time for hospitals to invest more in health IT safety and security than they do on new IT tools and innovation? One leader says yes. 

ThinkstockPhotos-87151271It’s no secret, organizations are feeling pinched when it comes to health IT.

On one side, they’re getting a lot of pressure to implement new IT tools and devices to improve operations, patient engagement and care efficiency. On the other side, leaders have to worry about preventing costly errors that jeopardize patient safety or medical data.

As a result, facilities have to decide where to prioritize their efforts — and some leaders believe innovation shouldn’t come first.

Expecting too much

That was the message in a recent article for The Wallstreet Journal penned by Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit patient safety organization.

Binder notes that since health care is further behind other industries in regards to technology, many administrators lack the necessary experience for implementing new systems effectively. She warns the initial implementation of new health IT can often result in mistakes, which can have a snowball effect on issues as administrators panic and try to compensate.

According to Binder, hospital leaders often fail to address serious managerial issues at the root of their problems because they tend to:

  • set unrealistic timelines
  • rely too much on vendors, and
  • assume technology will act as a cure-all for physical and administrative challenges.

For example, Leapfrog conducts tests on hospital systems’ online medication orders to see how well systems alert providers to common issues like allergies, wrong dosages or dangerous drug interactions.

It’s found that about a third of orders in over 1,000 hospitals systems fail to alert staff to errors every year. Even scarier, one in six of the orders let a potentially fatal medication error through without an alert. That means hospitals could be overlooking important patient safety issues by assuming their new ordering systems will catch any mistakes.

As a result, Binder says, hospitals need to worry less about being innovative with health IT, and focus instead on how well technology fits into their operations, culturally. For example, many vendors may not account for educating providers about effective usage, which means hospitals need to do this if they want to avoid costly errors.

Mobile app errors

An example of leaders potentially relying too much on technology as a cure-all comes from a recent report by mobile app security vendor Veracode.

The group performed more than 200,000 security assessments of its customers apps using both static and dynamic analyses and manual penetration testing.

It found that 80% of the apps related to health care had significant security and cryptographic problems, particularly in regards to initial authorization protocols.

Like Binder, the report authors note that the solution to fixing these errors may not come from simply relying on other technical safeguards. According to the authors, “… by addressing the problem systematically and at scale, enterprises can significantly reduce application risk — not by installing more next-generation firewalls.”

Mobile apps and mHealth devices represent the next generation of health IT. However, given the problems Veracode and Binder point out, leaders may want to spend more time and resources focusing on effectively implementing current technology, instead of looking for the new big thing in IT to push onto workers.

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