Technology continuously transforms the healthcare industry—both in the industry’s systems and in the ways individuals address their personal health. Although developments have saved millions of dollars in care costs, reduced necessary resources, and led to better and faster diagnoses, certain of those developments have also caused risks such as data insecurities, unauthorized access, and lack of interconnectivity.
Healthcare professionals now have access to immense amounts of data and extensive educational resources. The release of new apps has enabled people to (1) monitor their exercise and health conditions in real time, (2) access results, (3) schedule medical appointments, and (4) receive reminders for their next check-up. As a result, it is imperative that health systems keep pace with healthcare technology innovations, invest in digital health capabilities, and build a robust support infrastructure that includes organizational, financial, and clinical structures and processes.
The acceleration of decision-making processes and the implementation of digital technologies are two of several benefits that got implemented quickly as a result of the pandemic. Telemedicine and the combination of artificial intelligence and bioinformatics are just a few examples of the digital transformation in healthcare. Working from home required the acquisition and deployment of remote configurations for many hospital staff, presenting tremendous data security risks ranging from simple glitches to full-scale ransomware attacks.
To develop virtual care, healthcare providers and patients have to overcome several barriers. Many patients are not comfortable with using laptops or tablets, and many still do not have access to them. And even though it’s an excellent solution for patient interaction outside office settings, telehealth requires robust electronic health records, clearly defined clinical protocols for remote visits, efficient electronic billing, and strong collection systems, many hospitals and healthcare organizations need to revamp their systems’ processes to support the changes.
How can healthcare systems revamp their systems and processes to provide accessible and effective virtual care while also keeping mindful of security, costs, and patient outcomes? They must integrate virtual health initiatives into the core of care delivery—not as a stand-alone solution—and implement change management programs that align risk structures and security tools with cost and patient outcomes (value-based care). At the same time, these initiatives must have buy-in from the care team in order to support the changes. Our experience has shown it is critical for healthcare systems to develop effective security measures, examine their digital cultures, and develop holistic perspectives by doing the following:
- Develop effective security measures to prevent data breaches and reduce system entry points. Establishing virtual private networks and secure file transfer protocols is a critical first step. Limiting file storage on remote laptops and requiring encryption protocols for all remote access points can reduce the risk of data breaches. Reinforcing laptop security practices for work-at-home staff is a vital control process because cyber attackers are actively tailoring exploits to take advantage of remote workers. The implementation of education and training against phishing, with multifactor authentication to access systems, has been shown to drastically reduce healthcare’s cyber risks.
- Examine your organization’s digital culture. Companies with established digital priorities are more likely to respond quickly and on a larger scale than companies that rely on outdated technologies. Plus, digital-forward companies are more profitable compared with their peers.
- Take a holistic perspective for your organization by considering all of the opportunities and risks so as to ensure a strong defense against ransomware and indiscriminate hacking. Be certain to review:
- Robotic process automation
- Electronic health records and data transmission of protected health information to other applications, systems, and partners
- Telehealth and primary care delivery
- Post-acute care integration
- Population health strategies
A strategic lens will provide the organization with a comprehensive risk assessment, present opportunities for revenue growth and/or cost reductions, and form a basis for a multiyear approach that can be integrated into the organization’s larger IT systems plan. Following the assessment, a review of various vendor offerings will become more targeted for the organization’s needs and will improve the project’s return on investment.
Our experience has shown that changes in the innovation strategies and deployments of cloud-based digital infrastructures are critical for raising corporate growth opportunities, generating revenue growth, increasing levels of operational efficiency, and reducing time to market. Finally, it is essential to consider whether a cybersecurity strategy aligns with the organization’s business risk considerations and to determine how full-fledged digital capabilities are connected to legacy technologies.
 John Glaser et al. “What the Pandemic Means for Health Care’s Digital Transformation.” Harvard Business Review, December 4, 2020. Accessed at https://hbr.org/2020/12/what-the-pandemic-means-for-health-cares-digital-transformation on January 20, 2021.
 Zoe Kleinman, “Google AI tool can help patients identify skin conditions,” BBC News, May 18, 2021. Accessed at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57157566 on May 19, 2021.
 MIT Digital. “Digitally Mature Firms Are 26% More Profitable Than Their Peers.” August 8, 2013. Accessed at https://ide.mit.edu/insights/digitally-mature-firms-are-26-more-profitable-than-their-peers/ on May 17, 2021.