Healthcare News & Insights

3 Reasons to Avoid Piecemeal Network-Building in Healthcare IT

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Unlike other industries, the majority of U.S. hospital systems are not-for-profit, and many operate within margins hovering between 2% and 3%. With such tight budgets, healthcare systems have historically reinvested any surplus funds into patient care, often leading to a lag in IT investment. In this guest post, Karin Ratchinsky, director of healthcare vertical strategy at a global communications provider, explains why piecemeal network building should be avoided, and why developing and collaborating on next-generation healthcare network infrastructure is vital for the healthcare industry. 

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Health care is undergoing transformational change, and more changes are to come. IT organizations must think about the big picture of health care’s future because reactive, short-term IT strategies will likely limit innovation, slow change and cost more in the long run.

Consequences of piecemeal IT development

Developing and collaborating on next-generation healthcare network infrastructure is vital for several reasons, including:

Consistency

Accelerated adoption of healthcare IT applications and the digitization of protected health information continue to strain communication infrastructure. The unbridled capabilities brought on by real-time analytics and physician support tools further stress the network. Tools related to the Internet of Things, virtual care, enhanced security and patient empowerment all depend on high-performing network infrastructure.

With more care-critical applications being run out of centralized data centers, network performance is increasingly important. Many applications are latency-sensitive, and physicians can’t afford to wait around or have care hindered by poor application performance. If the system is slow or crashes because it’s inconsistent, then clinicians won’t have access to care-critical information.

Healthcare leadership can better provide clinicians with trusted, constant and secure access to information through an overarching and well-planned network strategy – instead of bolstering their organizations’ IT systems incrementally and reactively. A long-term IT strategy will create consistency in the performance of necessary tools to ensure high-quality care.

Preparation

Merger and acquisition activity is a key trend in health care, as is continued adoption of applications and tools. For 2016, data analytics is another trend named by hospital administrators as a key focus area, but many report they can’t complete desired initiatives because of a lack of resources. Nonetheless, a comprehensive, nimble strategy is key so that healthcare organizations can react and evolve with changing demands.

Leading provider organizations focus on strategies that prioritize security, flexibility and performance to develop organizational and technical road maps that will align them for success over the next 10 years. Along with virtual-care platforms, patient-engagement tools and remote monitoring applications, infrastructure should also be an important part of the network-building equation. In many cases, it’s the underlying foundation that these applications and critical communications are riding on.

To effectively leverage innovation and technology to empower and inform clinicians and patients, IT departments need to work with cross-functional teams to create cohesive, go-forward strategies that integrate technology, patient experience, clinician requirements and analytical tools with the end goal of improving care outcomes.

Security

In my forecast for how 2015 will shape healthcare IT in 2016, I noted that more than 84 million health records had been compromised by data security breaches. Many of these were, in part, due to piecemeal approaches to data and network security. Healthcare organizations should implement streamlined, consistent, long-term IT strategies and network solutions so they can more easily monitor their entire networks and more effectively roll out safeguards.

IT strategies should be thought of holistically with multiple stakeholders collaborating on the same vision for the next five to 10 years, in order to secure the network and maintain care-critical performance and uptime.

Next-generation approach

These issues can be remedied by approaching next-generation IT network-building with the future in mind.

When choosing partners, select those that can grow with you. They should have comprehensive solution sets and be highly connected to the cloud and to SaaS players. To fortify investment in resources that promote both improved care and cash flows, your partners should also invest in protecting their own networks from threats, developing security tools to ensure uptime and performance, and guaranteeing consistent connectivity throughout the organization. To create a road map that will support all stakeholders, parties across the organization – those  in finance, operations, clinical and patient engagement, customer experience and security – must collaborate to understand what works and doesn’t, what’s on the horizon, what the company’s vision is and how to get on board.

Karin Ratchinsky is the director of healthcare vertical strategy at Level 3 Communications, a global communications provider.  

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