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In healthcare, there is absolutely no escape from the mandatory utilization of technology. From the simple task of setting an appointment to billing and procedure codes, everything requires an intensive use of protocols that can be implemented only through the use of technology. HHS mandates these processes across the board, from a doctor who is operating solo to the largest hospitals. All HIPAA covered entities must adhere to rules and standards set forth in ANSI 5010 starting Jan. 2012 and ICD-10 starting Oct. 2015. Needless to say, all providers need help using the technology that is designed to bring efficiency and accuracy to the health care system.
Let's discuss why doctor's offices and clinics need managed IT services.
- You're a Medical Professional: As a doctor you don't have the knowledge to repair your own networks in case there is a failure. Your support staff is trained to make appointments and take blood pressure, draw blood along with several other medical-related responsibilities. They don't fix computers for a living.
- The prohibitive cost of an in-house IT team: Hiring an IT staff even as part-time employees can be very costly, and even full-time staff may not provide all your support needs. System failures can be very unpredictable and technology can be a 24/7 concern. IT support based solely on your own payroll is not typically a practical choice for doctors or clinics.
- Data security: This is a very serious issue in health care. Medical records of patients must be protected according to HIPAA requirements. Laws governing health care provides stiff penalties and fines in the case of a breach in patient's private information. You need to make sure that your networks are impenetrable. There are even requirements now to prove that you've had a qualified professional attempt to hack your systems on a routine basis. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) specialize in technologies that will safeguard your data. There are also software maintenance and upgrade issues to be addressed. Outdated software and hardware can expose your systems to hackers. An in-house IT team may be too busy to keep up with the changes, thus making your data vulnerable.
- Monitoring: The best way to avoid critical breakdowns and security breaches is 24/7 monitoring. This is the surefire way to avoid and control security breaches, viruses and hacker attacks, but it isn't something a small firm can do on its own. It requires the presence of 24/7 labor plus investment in exceptionally sophisticated software and hardware. This sort of investment is not practical for smaller firms.
- Government regulations: Now there are new government regulations in place that all health care providers must comply with. The purpose is to speed up the billing process and promote more accurate diagnostic records, all while protecting patient privacy.
- ICD-10 and ANSI 5010: The World Health Organization has updated the international system of coding diseases. It is called ICD-10, with implementation mandated by Oct. 1st 2015. Implementation of ICD-10 requires the use of the new billing system called ANSI 5010, which was to take effect on Jan. 1st 2012. These regulations are designed to improve the information flow between systems so the providers will get paid faster and the patient's conditions will be diagnosed more precisely.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR): The government now mandates that all the patient's health records be maintained electronically. Also, this mandate provides for the patient's right to know who has accessed their medical records and when. The patient portals that are gaining popularity will be another task to manage.
So what does all this mean for health care providers in terms of managing their networks? More data volumes, more software packages, and more privacy headaches.
At the end of the day, you have to decide what your priorities are as a health care provider. It should be to provide the best care to your patients without having to worry about your infrastructure. As a MSP, we can ensure your focus remains on healthcare.
2013 was the year the healthcare industry embraced cloud computing thanks to modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement and Breach Rules. With these modifications extending the definition of a Business Associated (BA) to cloud service providers, many of the data breach concerns that had previously kept the healthcare sector from taking to the cloud have been quieted.
But as more patient health data is electronic and residing in a virtual environment, the availability of this data is just as important, if not more important, than securing it. Unlike Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the disastrous effects of data outages in the healthcare sector can have potentially deadly consequences.
Not only is high uptime mandatory in a healthcare cloud, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans are also crucial. The good news is the cloud’s virtualized infrastructure, coupled with the expertise and cloud monitoring of a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help healthcare organizations maintain uptime and reliability. Here are three helpful steps:
Risk Assessments Are Absolutely Necessary
While risk assessments are critical to protecting patient health information.These evaluations must be conducted regularly and require an honest assessment of probable risks ranging from malicious cybercrime attacks to acts of nature such as natural disasters, flood, earthquakes and power outages. Analyze both the architectural vulnerabilities relative to data availability and security as well as the effectiveness of the counteractive measures in place. The goal is to minimize the plausible impact of such an event and prevent service disruption.
Proactively Monitor for Cybercrime
It is often months before a security breach is detected. By this time, hackers have had ample time to infiltrate your system and feast on its data. Since cybercriminals use an unpredictable array of methods to strike, such as viruses, malware and phishing schemes to steal credentials, the strength of your detection system is key. Alerts should be set up to identify anomalies such as unusual application requests, forced entry attempts, suspicious spikes in traffic, and abnormal data patterns that suggest a breach. The proactive monitoring tools available through a MSP can help scan, pinpoint, and remediate such attacks.
Any BCDR plan must be built upon your organization’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). Your RTO is the duration of time in which your service level must be restored to avoid dire consequences. Your RPO is the maximum age of the recoverable files in storage to resume normal operations. A MSP can help determine the optimal scenario for your healthcare organization and prioritize the most critical health care information with near real-time replication.
Through this preparation and foresight, your organization can lay the groundwork to not only protect healthcare information in the cloud but potentially save patients’ lives in the event of an unforeseen outage.