Why is Healthcare Technology Behind the Times?

Look at the annual profits reported by healthcare providers and it will be clear that many organizations can afford to implement new technology, especially when it will improve workflows, efficiency, and productivity. So why is healthcare technology behind the times? What is holding healthcare providers back when there is technology that can be leveraged to allow huge cost savings to be made and patient outcomes to be improved?

Why is Healthcare Technology Behind the Times? 

The pace of change in the healthcare industry is notoriously slow. The industry relies on outdated technology, especially when it comes to communication. While other industries have embraced email, Smartphones, and text messages, healthcare providers are still reliant on faxes and pagers. Pagers are not even HIPAA-compliant, yet some 2 million devices are still relied upon by physicians. The devices should really have been retired a decade ago, as HIPAA-compliant alternatives to the pager are available. Those alternatives have been shown to be fast, reliable, and secure.

The reality is healthcare organizations are reluctant to implement new technology for two reasons. Safety is the main concern. If a device stops functioning it would be a major cause for concern in other industries, and could result in financial losses being suffered, but people’s lives would not be put on the line. That is quite likely in a healthcare environment. If a physician is prevented from communicating, patients will ultimately suffer. Some may even die as a result.

In order for a healthcare provider to consider replacing a pager, the alternative must be 100% secure, or as Itamar Kandel, President of TigerConnect puts it, “Every new piece of technology needs to be bulletproof.”

Kandel, like a great many people, has asked the question “Why is healthcare technology behind every other industry? He found the answer while working for VERITAS Software in a partnership with Cerner Corporation.

His role was straightforward. He was required to oversee the addition of the VERITAS File System (VxFS) and VERITAS Volume Manager (VxVM) into the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) used by Cerner. The task was not difficult from a technological perspective, but it did take over a year for the contract to be closed. The benefits that could be had were abundantly clear, which is just as well otherwise that contract would have taken considerably longer to be closed.

The problem was not a failure to see the benefits, but one of safety. Any change has potential to impact patients, so healthcare providers must be ultra-cautious and 100% sure that patients would not be affected by change.

The other issue is one of workflow. Any technological upgrade has potential to affects workflows. Physicians have precious little time these days to actually see patients. They have rigid workflows that have been developed to maximize patient-time, while making sure other responsibilities are not neglected. Anything that threatens to change those workflows could have serious implications for patients. It doesn’t matter what the benefits are to patients, changing workflows is an incredibly difficult process.

Understanding patient safety issues and workflow problems is essential for any provider of healthcare technology solutions. It is not just a case of making sure the product will benefit physicians and healthcare systems. The product must be shown to be 100% secure. It is also necessary to have a detailed knowledge of existing workflows. Only then will it be possible to introduce products without causing major disruption to workflows. This is something that has been learned at TigerText.

These two stumbling blocks led to the development of two new solutions for healthcare providers. It is hoped that these two solutions will help healthcare providers to finally retire their pagers and faxes and bring their communications into the 21st Century. TigerPage and TigerFax both serve as bridges, allowing communications technology to be updated, but in a manner that does not place patients at risk or cause disruption to existing workflows.

You can read about TigerPage and TigerFax here.

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of NetSec.news