4 Big IT Challenges for Healthcare Providers

healthcare technologyStaying on top of IT – including not only maintaining a secure and optimally functioning network but also keeping up with new technologies as they emerge – can prove overwhelming for any organization, regardless of industry. However, tackling the tech side of things is particularly important and challenging for organizations in the healthcare space.

With the need to comply with strict standards under regulations such as HIPAA, maintain electronic health records (EHRs), and more, healthcare providers and the organizations they partner with face unique issues and have very specific IT support needs. Here’s an overview of just a few of the most pressing challenges related to IT that healthcare providers currently face.

1. Complying with HIPAA (and other regulations). Any organization that works with protected health information (PHI) must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA sets standards for electronic healthcare transactions, security, code sets, and unique health identifiers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, HIPAA isn’t the only regulation that sets standards to ensure the security and privacy of sensitive information. Many organizations must also adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Service Organization Control (SOC) 2, which applies to service providers that store clients’ data in the cloud.

As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve and the data breach epidemic continues, it’s particularly crucial for entities in the healthcare industry to ensure they keep patient data safe. Having a comprehensive IT security strategy in place is vital.

For organizations looking to maintain high-performing IT systems and comply with HIPAA and other laws, compliancy as a service offerings from managed service providers like Stratosphere Networks can help.

2. Vetting vendors. Those covered by HIPAA include not only healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses but also businesses associates of those covered entities. HHS defines a business associate as “a person or entity that performs certain functions or activities that involve the use or disclosure of protected health information on behalf of, or provides services to, a covered entity.”

Covered entities must vet vendors carefully to ensure compliance with HIPAA, and contracts with those vendors (known as Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) or, under HIPAA, Business Associate Contracts (BACs)) must meet certain regulatory requirements. BAAs/BACs make sure HIPAA standards are met and create a bond of liability for the covered entities and their business associates.

It can prove challenging, however, to thoroughly assess multiple vendors. Managed IT service providers like Stratosphere can help by providing vendor risk categorization and monitoring solutions. Our team can make vendor vetting much easier by implementing software that will not only determine your vendors’ risk levels but also monitor for potential threats and give your organization access to vendor evidence sharing networks.

3. Determining how to best store and leverage data and analytics. As healthcare becomes increasingly digital and mobile, healthcare providers have gained access to growing volumes of data. One of the big challenges facing entities in the healthcare industry in 2019 is figuring out how to analyze this data and use the findings to better manage patients’ health, as well as inform other strategic decisions, according to the HIT Consultant article “Top 10 Challenges, Issues and Opportunities for Healthcare Executives in 2019.”

4. EHR optimization and interoperability. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT have encouraged the use of EHRs in recent years through payment incentives for healthcare providers that demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology (in addition to negative adjustments to Medicare/Medicaid fees for those that don’t achieve meaningful use), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the implementation of EHRs has run into and continues to grapple with serious issues in the realm of interoperability between different platforms, according to the Healthcare IT News article “Why EHR data interoperability is such as mess in 3 charts.”

An examination of statistics from HIMSS Analytics showed that the average hospital runs an average of 16 distinct electronic medical record platforms, the article states. Achieving interoperability between different platforms has proven incredibly difficult and is something many healthcare providers are still working to address.

These are only some of the significant IT issues healthcare providers face. If you’re in the healthcare industry and your organization could use help with IT, including HIPAA compliance, vendor vetting, cybersecurity, and more, don’t hesitate to contact our team of expert techs. All our team members are trained to securely handle PHI, and we offer a wide range of next-gen IT solutions and services. Contact us today by calling 877-599-3999 or emailing sales@stratospherenetworks.com.

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