2108 Planning Considerations

NetgainCybersecurity & Compliance, Healthcare IT

The kids are settled back in school, holiday décor is already out in stores, and the new year is just around the corner. For most businesses, this signals strategic planning and budgeting season.

The role of technology in business has never been more significant than it is now. Strategic IT enables businesses to grow faster, improve processes and sometimes even decrease costs. At the same time, the management of IT has become increasingly more complex, and staying up-to-date with changes has become nearly impossible for many smaller IT teams.

As your organization works through strategic planning for 2018, we’ve outlined six IT-related initiatives that will likely affect your organization’s strategic plan and budget for the coming year.

1. Cryptomalware defense.
We’ve seen continued attacks on organizations at all levels in 2017. “Fileless” malware now lives on media other than hard drives—like in your computer’s RAM.

The primary vulnerability to cryptomalware, just like other cybersecurity threats, is still user error. That is, your users opening a file attached to an email or clicking on a malicious link.

In 2018, plan on investing time and budget into cybersecurity countermeasures such as extensive user training, application whitelisting and device encryption. If advice on this topic is coming from somewhere other than a certified security professional, you may not be getting the depth you need.

2. Analytics
Data has taken new prominence as many healthcare practices are now required to substantiate their outcomes to get reimbursed. The simple reports organizations were familiar with are now replaced by complex analyses of large, multi-year data sets.

Becker’s Hospital Review reports 57 percent of healthcare organizations expect predictive analytics to save their organization 15 percent or more over the next five years. But, the number-one barrier to predictive analytics is budget.

In 2018, invest in analytics and refine your data analytics capabilities that can provide ROI and increased patient satisfaction. Often, you’ll have to look beyond the analytics built into your EHR – you may look to a third-party tool that aggregates EHR, lab, your providers’ work within hospital systems and other disparate data sources under your roof.

3. Performance, performance, performance
Meaningful Use (MU) and the flurry of Electronic Health Record (EHR) changes left “performance” in shambles for many healthcare organizations. Functionality and reporting were considered priorities while performance and speed suffered.

Some software providers will focus attention on performance, but infrastructure partners will have a more significant role in designing new infrastructures and cloud solutions that enhance performance.

In 2018, consider how outdated infrastructure is affecting your practice’s performance. Based on your IT roadmap, it may be time to update resources or even upgrade to a cloud environment.

4. Data storage
Electronic Health Records are an increasingly more mature part of the practice environment. After many years of use, the digital storage requirements associated with hundreds of thousands of records is substantial. When you add digital imaging storage, storage requirements go through the roof.

What’s more, in a virtualized computing environment, storage technology also has an impact on performance – so having the latest-and-greatest like tiered storage and virtualized storage environments can improve your system’s performance.

Though the market has come to expect that storage costs drop year-over-year, that’s not always applicable to the high-performance and scalable storage needed to drive the EHR and related systems.

In 2018, practices that haven’t deployed “solid-state disk” (SSD) in internal server farms will feel pressure to do so, and cloud computing will be an attractive alternative to the capital investment of an SSD storage solution.

5. Title Attrition
After the Meaningful Use rush, EHR providers are experiencing dramatically less sales than previous years. Some software titles have stalled development efforts, been acquired or in extreme cases, folded.

Practices using an EHR software title that’s facing market challenges may be stranded or pushed into unknown, unattractive new titles. Recent developments in Ophthalmology may be illustrative, where a series of acquisitions by one investment firm led to an announcement that over four titles will be folded into a single title within the next few years.

In 2018, be sure you’re closely following the health of your EHR provider. Push for development, updates and support. If you find yourself working with a sputtering EHR provider, consider the effects that will have on your practice and work with an IT partner to determine next steps.

6. Cloud Sprawl
With so many solutions deploying a cloud-based product, the headaches of managing on-site infrastructure may be replaced by managing a dozen separate components that are all critical in some way to the practice.

The question becomes: who can tie all these elements together into one cohesive IT offering?

In 2018, plan to find a provider that can aggregate these components into a cohesive mix, delivering the service to your providers and other users into a single, integrated and seamless environment.

The impact of technology in healthcare is on the rise, and when implemented strategically, technology can have positive effects on patient care, provider satisfaction and bottom-line financials.

If your practice is wondering how to get started with a strategic IT roadmap, let us help.