Why Cybersecurity in the Healthcare Industry Requires a Holistic Approach

Data privacy has been thrust into the spotlight this year, with several high-profile breaches and new global threats seemingly popping up each day. While information security is important for all consumer industries, healthcare organizations possess highly-sensitive personal data and therefore have a critical responsibility to keep their patients safe. According to a report by cybersecurity provider Protenus, there were 477 data breaches impacting 5.6 million patient records in 2017. In order to maintain patient security and to trust the integrity of their systems, providers need to adopt a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we work with many leading providers to help them not only keep their patients’ data safe but turn it into actionable insights. As a result, we have gained a unique view of the tactics that are most effective. Here are a few that stand out for our clients:

  1. Make smart decisions about technology based on organizational goals: Perhaps this one seems obvious, but all too often in our hyperconnected world, we see organizations that quickly move to adopt technology without having a full understanding on how it will integrate within their broader tech stack. Remember, each new technology and tool is another potential channel where data can be compromised or inadvertently manipulated. Smart organizations will develop a safety protocol and plans for each new piece of technology and ensure that they are working with reputable and secure vendors.
  2. Employ highly-technical talent to stay ahead of security threats: For many healthcare organizations, internal cybersecurity teams may not be adequately resourced to stay ahead of threats and to ensure data safety. Increasingly, providers are looking to outside experts to focus on specific areas of the business in order to maintain data integrity and trust. As new technology and regulations emerge, having talent that is up-to-speed and focused is critical for healthcare organizations that want to stay out of the headlines.
  3. Train all users across the organization: Again, this one might seem obvious, but according to MediaPro’s 2017 State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report, a whopping 78 percent of healthcare employees showed some lack of preparedness with common privacy and security threat scenarios. Employees that are handling data throughout the care continuum have a responsibility to ensure it is kept safe and secure, but the responsibility of training those employees rests with the organization. We work frequently with providers to help them design comprehensive training programs that fit the custom needs of their organizations.

Certainly, these are simplified steps, the truth is, recognizing a best-in-class, secure healthcare organization requires a highly-skilled team, ongoing planning, and strategy, as well as an integrated set of technology and systems. As new threats emerge and regulatory considerations evolve, providers will need to continue to stay ahead of the curve to be successful and to fulfill their responsibility to patients.

Are you planning to improve your cybersecurity ecosystem? Reach out and I’d love to set you up with one of our expert consultants to see how we might be able to help you achieve your goals.

How Leading Healthcare Providers Are Turning Data into Insights

Healthcare organizations sit on top of a mountain of available patient data records. Of course, this raw data is useless on its own, but when analyzed properly it can be turned into actionable information that can help better diagnose and manage illness, research new treatments, and even prevent disease.

In today’s ever-changing world, leading providers are adopting an intelligent analytics strategy, including a combination of information technology, business intelligence tools, and highly-technical talent to make sense of it all. At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we are constantly working with healthcare organizations to help them build an analytics infrastructure that is customized to the unique needs of their patients and their businesses. As such, we spend a considerable amount of time tracking analytics trends and use cases to inform our own strategy. Here is a couple that stands out as driving the future for healthcare analytics:

Analytics Center of Excellence (COE) at the Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland Clinic is one of the nation’s top care providers, so it is no surprise that it is also leading the charge in the application of analytics to improve patient outcomes. The COE developed a patient risk identification solution with self-service visual analytics to help clinicians and care coordinators better understand patient data in real time. Andy Dé, a thought leader in the healthcare tech space, wrote about the success of the program. “Leveraging their visual analytics platform in lieu of their legacy BI and Analytics platforms enabled them to embrace an ‘Agile Analytics’ paradigm and lower time to value with their analytics solution by over 50%.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization (BIDCO)

Beth Israel’s care organization has leaned into the trend of value-based care, putting a greater emphasis on patient outcomes, fewer medical errors, and lower readmission rates, instead of focusing on how many tests and procedures they can deliver. As a result, they are using analytics to help gain a clearer picture of their patients’ health in order to deliver better overall care. Jessica Davis, an editor for InformationWeek, outlines how BIDCO is using preventive metrics to incentivize value-based care. “One metric might be, what percentage of eligible patients in the overall patient population completed their mammogram screening tests this year? Another is, what percentage of diabetic patients completed their A1C test this year? The higher the percentage, the greater the share of surplus dollars that BIDCO network members get to share. In this way, the practices are incentivized to close the gaps in care.”

In the Harvard Business Review, Sanjeev Agrawal of LeanTaaS argues that hospitals need better data science. “Airlines are arguably more operationally complex, asset-intensive, and regulated than hospitals, yet the best performers are doing a better job by far than most hospitals at keeping costs low and make a decent profit while delivering what their customers expect,” he notes. We believe that as value-based care and other trends reward healthcare providers that wrangle their data and develop stronger analytics capacity, we will see continued investment in technology and talent to help build better businesses and healthier patient populations.

How Healthcare Providers Can Use Technology to Their Advantage

While healthcare providers’ primary responsibility is to their patients, of course, maintaining a healthy business is still of considerable importance. As technology has become increasingly complex, healthcare leaders have faced new challenges in ensuring stability and growth for their organizations. According to a recent Forbes article by healthcare reporter Claire Rychlewski, poor implementation and management of technology is hurting the valuation of many healthcare providers and in some cases preventing mergers and acquisitions from taking place. According to Rychlewski, “as technology becomes more integral to healthcare and valuations continue to climb, the margin for error is razor-thin when it comes to assessing the health of a target company’s technology, dealmakers say.”

So, what can providers do to realize the benefits of innovative technology without putting their companies in a risky position? At HealthTECH Resources, Inc. we have worked with many of the nation’s leading providers over the past 20 years, and have found a consistent thread in organizations that are able to make technology work for them: investing in process, training, and accuracy.

Certainly, juggling patient care, compliance, revenue growth, and cost management is a difficult task for healthcare providers. But when organizations are thoughtful about the adoption of technology from a human standpoint, not just from a systems standpoint, it becomes far easier to achieve comprehension for end users, patient data security, and integration between otherwise disparate systems.

Modern healthcare providers should involve subject matter experts at all stages of their technology lifecycle, from system selection to implementation, to integration and long-term maintenance. As recent examples like those mentioned in Rychlewski’s article have shown, it is far more cost effective to get the technology right at the outset that it is to have to deal with regulatory issues down the line. At the same time, providers need to develop comprehensive plans, training programs for end-users, and cyber security protocol to ensure that the entire care continuum is optimized for all participants, including the broader business.

As a new technology, such as artificial intelligence, wearable devices, and even the blockchain for security, continue to infiltrate the healthcare space, it is easy to see why providers (and their patients) will be eager to adopt them and recognize their benefits. But in order to improve not just patient outcomes but also the health of the business, organizational leaders must take the appropriate steps to plan, involve highly-skilled technical talent at all stages, and ensure that everyone is equipped to utilize each technology to its full potential.

 

3 Trends Driving the Future of Healthcare Technology

Amidst regulatory changes, evolving patient expectations, and emerging technology, healthcare providers find themselves in a very interesting, and challenging, ecosystem. Of course, while these pressures present obstacles to success, they also present an enormous opportunity for providers that are able to be nimble and adapt to a continually shifting “new normal.”

Today, healthcare providers are able to provide exceptional care to patients, and with the proper technology and processes, can maintain a 360-degree view of a patient’s health profile, allowing for more accurate diagnoses and more effective treatment plans. At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., my team and I are fortunate to work with many of the nation’s leading providers and have built a keen understanding of trends that are impacting the space. In this article, I would like to share a few that we believe will have a critical impact on the way providers and patients alike will manage healthcare in the near term.

Preventive Medicine

It’s no secret that preventive medicine is a rising trend in healthcare, as patients, insurance providers, and care providers alike recognize the benefits of preventing a disease rather than having to treat it once it presents. Preventive medicine is also more cost effective, helping reduce the level of wasted services and procedures needed to diagnose and treat. And there is plenty of waste. In fact, according to Meritage Med, a whopping 30% of healthcare spending goes to waste. This includes unnecessary services like the overprescription of antibiotics, which wastes roughly $210 billion each year, and administrative costs for paperwork, which wastes an estimated $190 billion. As wearable technology such as Apple Watch and Fitbit become more pervasive, individuals will continue to take greater control over their own healthcare, which will reduce the burden on providers and (hopefully) lead to greater overall wellness.

Integrated Technology

On the provider side, technology has enabled greater transparency of patient data than ever before, equipping doctors and medical teams with insights that allow for more optimal and customized care. Still, we have a long way to go before there is complete integration across the entire care continuum and true transparency of patient health data. We expect this to be a dominant trend over the next few years, as regulators push for both stronger integration across systems as well as enhanced data privacy for patients. With Medicare, as an example, there has been a discussion of mandating providers to participate in health information exchange activities. Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed to re-name the federal EHR Incentive Program, or meaningful use, choosing to now call the program “Promoting Interoperability.” Achieving interoperability across the broader technology stack will prove quite a challenge but will be key to success over the next several years.

Emphasis on Talent Development

Technology is the dominant topic of discussion for healthcare management and has been for some time, and certainly, we don’t expect this to subside in the coming years. But in an era of revolutionary tech development, the importance of having dedicated and collaborative talent to support business needs has too often been ignored. A primary issue that many healthcare providers face is having inadequate talent resources to optimize the expensive and complex technology they have invested in, and we also work with many organizations on planning and process development to ensure that end users are set up for success. As the pendulum swings back a bit, we expect more emphasis to be placed on the talent side of the house, building teams both in-house and with outside resources across the entire spectrum of care.

What trends are you seeing play out in your own businesses? Perhaps these are impacting you in varying ways. I’d love to learn more about the challenges your business is facing and how we might be able to help.

 

How to Build a Successful Healthcare Technology Team

In the healthcare space, much attention is often paid to the implementation of revolutionary new technology, from Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to analytics and cybersecurity solutions. Certainly, this is understandable given the importance of these functions to healthcare data management, and the rapidly evolving capabilities of these systems to empower greater efficiency. However, with such a focus on the IT side of the house, it can be easy for organizations to neglect the importance of building out the right teams to support the technology and achieve the goals of the business.

At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we spend an enormous amount of time consulting with the nation’s leading providers to help them fill talent gaps, plan against goals, and develop training and processes for end users. I should note that every organization is unique in the specific needs and resources required for success, but there are some shared characteristics we find in providers that tend to perform well.

  1. Plan early, plan often: It goes without saying that organizations should be planning for how to achieve goals, not just prior to the launch of a new initiative but throughout the life of a project and beyond. Of course, having comprehensive plans in place can sometimes feel like a utopian pipe dream, but it is more of a possibility that you may imagine. Often, we see organizations start with the idea that they need something “new” and “shiny.” “We need a new EHR system,” or “we need a more robust analytics tool.” These may very well be and often are, true statements for a healthcare provider, but decisions shouldn’t start with a statement about technology. Start with the desired outcome and then work backward to determine the steps required to get there. “We need more transparency in our patient records,” or “we need to better understand where there are inefficiencies in our processes.” See the difference? From there, you can understand the steps required to get to the desired end-state and build appropriate plans inclusive of both technology and talent.
  2. Balance headcount with specialized outsourcing: Another key to building a successful technology team is recognizing where to maintain in-house resources and where to outsource for specialized talent. In many cases, it is not economical or practical to employ all of the various types of skill-sets required for a particular project or initiative. On the flip side, some organizations may try to handle everything in-house and run into inefficiencies or challenges due to a skills gap that could be filled with consultative talent. Maintaining the proper balance is key to success and is something we help providers with frequently.
  3. Consistently iterate as conditions change: Again, this may seem like an obvious statement, but it is something that is more easily said than done. The reality is that conditions in your organization will change, regulations will be passed, new technology will be released, and some or all of these things may happen while you are in the middle of an implementation or other projects. It’s important to be agile, both in development and in mindset, and be willing to course-correct depending on your goals and on the directional changes to the business.

These are simply a few common traits we observe in the successful businesses that we work with, as mentioned, the specific talent you may require and the team structure that will work best for you is dependent on a myriad of factors. Please reach out if you could use help in sourcing specialized talent, developing training programs, or planning otherwise for success. And if there are other characteristics that have helped you to build a successful team, we’d also love to hear about them.

 

3 Ways to Optimize Your Healthcare Technology Systems

Data privacy is a notable and growing concern for organizations, regulators, and individuals, both here in the United States and abroad. In the past year, the issue has made headlines repeatedly, from Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal data during the 2016 election cycle to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Facebook’s API update designed to further protect users’ information.

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 that require a comprehensive and agile strategy. At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we work with many of the nation’s leading providers to help them execute on their data strategy. From our more than 20 years of experience, there are three characteristics that seem to lead to a successful data program:

  1. 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 Electronic Health Records (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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

If your organization needs support in its technology strategy, please feel free to reach out and I can connect you to a relevant expert for a consultation.