Secure, effective data management in your electronic health records (EHR) system and other technologies is crucial to protect your patients and your organization. EHR applications with clean, secure, relevant data allow your facilities to streamline patient care in cost effective ways while protecting data privacy. Employees at healthcare facilities can seamlessly enter patient information into a database where your teams can then access, use, analyze, and share the information in relevant ways. Conversely, data privacy is a notable and growing concern for organizations, regulators, and individuals, both here in the United States and abroad.
Data Breaches in Healthcare Settings
In a report titled “Healthcare Breach Report 2021: Hacking and IT Incidents on the Rise,” it’s noted how the number of healthcare data breaches reached 599 in 2020, which was a 55.1% increase over the previous year. Hacking and IT incidents served as the most common cause (67.3%) with the average cost of a single breached record going up from $429 in 2019 to $499 in 2020. Although that may not sound like much, with a million-plus number of records breached, this adds up to serious costs. In 2020, the average healthcare organization took 236 days to recover from the effects of the breach.
In 2022 so far, multiple healthcare organizations have suffered from data breaches, including a hospital in San Antonio, Texas where 1.24 million people had their private data accessed through the use of malware. This is one of the largest breaches in recent times that was tracked by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
That state’s Department of Insurance also suffered from a security issue that impacted 1.8 million people. In this case, it is suspected that a web application had a programming code flaw that permitted internet access to a part of the application that should have been kept private. A third example from 2022 occurred in Massachusetts at a health care group. About two million people’s data may have been compromised through a hacking attack.
Three Ways to Optimize Your Healthcare Technology Systems
While this topic has exploded across all industries, for healthcare providers that manage the most sensitive data on behalf of their patients, privacy concerns have always been a primary focus. Of course, protecting patient data while utilizing it to provide optimal care is an enormous challenge for healthcare organizations, one that requires a comprehensive and agile strategy. At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we work with many of the nation’s leading providers to help them execute their data strategies. From our more than 20 years of experience, there are three characteristics that seem to lead to a successful data program:
- Investing in the correct data management technology: Healthcare technology has greatly evolved in recent years, and staying up-to-date with emerging innovation and evolving regulatory considerations can seem overwhelming. Still, investing time and dollars into the correct EHR and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, analytics tools, and cybersecurity software is a critical step to keeping data secure and making it useful to your medical teams so they can provide the best care for patients.
- Training and planning to ensure ongoing improvement: Yes, technology can be entirely burdensome to implement, but it becomes much more challenging to manage once real, live human beings start using it. Successful healthcare organizations recognize the need for comprehensive training of their end users, process planning and, in many cases, ongoing technical support from third-party experts.
- Finding highly-specific talent that can work with an integrated approach: It can be understandably difficult to simultaneously ensure your staff and your technology are working properly on a day-to-day basis while also setting in motion new processes, systems, and project plans to address a desired future state, but successful organizations we’ve worked with are able to do so without becoming overwhelmed. Doing so requires a combination of strategic and technical talent that can work together to optimize current systems, react to industry updates, and proactively prepare for innovation and growth.
Certainly, these characteristics are not the only ones that organizations must have in order to achieve a successful data management strategy, but they often present the biggest hurdles for healthcare technology leaders that we work with. As new regulations continue to crop up and patients demand more transparency and accuracy in their care, it will be critical for healthcare providers to have the right technology, the right people, and the right strategies in place.
EHR and Data Security
When implementing a new EHR system, it’s important to have data security front of mind during the implementation. EHR consultants in our network specialize in maximizing security during implementations, so please contact us to discuss how we can augment your staff.
For current EHR systems, we have EHR consultants who can analyze your application, conducting an InfoSec analysis. There are three components to InfoSec:
- Confidentiality: Systems must be designed to keep private information confidential, available only to people who have the right to see the information.
- Integrity: InfoSec strategies must also private the data from alterations, additions, damage, and deletions. This includes protection from accidental damage and intentional malice.
- Availability: Although it’s crucial to protect data, medical professionals will need access to the information. So, it’s about finding the right balance.
Each healthcare organization should create a carefully crafted InfoSec policy, and EMR consultants in our network can develop one that takes all three components into account. The result: an information security policy (ISP) that will guide end users through an EHR system that’s designed to protect data while allowing role-based access for seamless use.
When creating your policy, here are considerations:
- What past breaches have you experienced? Was it through malware? A flaw in the application? A hacker? What impact did that have on your system and what steps did you take to address the damage? Did that strengthen your application?
- Consider data breaches that affected other organizations—but not yours. Do you know why you were protected?
- Keep current about what malware, phishing schemes, and other nefarious activities are taking place. Do what you can to protect your data integrity and security.
- Stay informed about security risks that are predicted to occur, and proactively create a plan to ensure security.
EMR Consultants for Data Management and Security
Busy professionals at healthcare organizations often don’t have time to address all of the issues brought up in just the four bullet points above. That’s perfectly understandable. That’s a lot to consider. That said, when there isn’t time to address those issues, your healthcare organization becomes vulnerable to data breaches—ones that can be quite costly in time, money, and your organization’s reputation.
Fortunately, as an EMR consulting company, we have the solution: a deep and wide network of experienced professionals who will implement new applications with security front of mind and can also conduct InfoSec analyses; make recommendations; and assist you from start to finish.
The result: an EHR system that you can use with confidence, knowing that it is designed to protect you against data breaches while still allowing seamless access to appropriate users.
HealthTECH Resources for Your Data Management
When your healthcare organization needs the expertise of EHR specialists, we’re here to help. Our leadership will listen to your needs and then match you with EMR consultants with exactly the expertise you need—and you can also select from professionals who are available as contract-to-hire or as permanent placements.
Experts from our network will work collaboratively with you to understand your goals and objectives; your technology; problems you’ve experienced; challenges and risks you face; and more. Using this intelligence, they will contribute to your EHR project in deeply meaningful ways.
We can also augment your staff with professional trainers and process documentation experts. If you’re implementing a new EHR application, they can craft engaging, interactive programs to teach end users how to optimally use the software. If you’re creating an ISP, our trainers can educate your teams on the reasons for the policy and share ways in which it will protect your data. Understanding the “why” of it all can boost employee adoption rates, which further foolproofs the strategy for the ultimate in technology protection.
To get started with your staff augmentation through our experienced boutique-style agency, please contact us online or to call us at (602) 903-7961.
PRESIDENT/CEO AT HEALTHTECH RESOURCES
Larry has specialized in building strategic healthcare relationships for over 25 years, helping the nation’s top payors and providers solve some of their most pressing business challenges through an intelligent mix of staffing services, training, and consulting.