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How Healthcare Technology Is Adapting to a Changing World

The French Guiana termite has adapted to its environment in an extreme way. The older members of these termite colonies literally self-destruct when their colony is under attack. They spend their entire lives accumulating toxins in a gland on their backs waiting for an attacker. When an attacker does arrive, the termite gets close to the potential threat and explodes, ensuring the survival of the younger members of the species. Fascinating.

Adaptation is such an important part of how we survive that it should be considered a basic principle in modern medicine. At its core, modern medicine is all about survival, and survival is all about adaptation. The field of medicine, for the most part, has embraced this concept and can point to improved outcomes in many scenarios.

IT teams within the hospital, on the other hand, find it difficult to embrace constant change as a core principle – for many reasons. When a 2016 CHIME survey asked health IT leaders if it is difficult to explore new technologies that require substantial change across disciplines, 57 percent said yes. Even when the technology was said to have the potential to improve patient care and satisfaction, over half of the respondents said new technologies that introduce change are difficult to consider.

Healthcare IT has long been a conservative industry, largely due to regulatory and compliance concerns. IT leaders often hesitate to implement new technology, for fear of security vulnerabilities. In addition to this, gartner.com says that the historical infrastructure of healthcare has been anchored in the use of legacy technologies, like PBXs, pagers, and paper trails—all of which physicians and patients are accustomed to.

These setbacks don’t have to keep healthcare IT departments from evolving and progressing. After all, healthcare applications in the consumer sector have evolved dramatically over the last few years. A myriad of consumer health (fitness, dietary, health measurement) apps, wearables, and home health peripherals have changed the way patients perceive and report on their own health on a daily basis.

Consumer healthcare has also breached the walls of the hospital, as shadow IT (users setting up and using their own technology outside of IT’s awareness or control) has emerged. Physicians, nurses, and staff now demand ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) programs and have developed a strong preference for the types of sleek and functional apps they use in their personal lives. In fact, a recent CHIME survey indicates that 94% of healthcare end-users use consumer-grade technology in clinical routines.

Manage Organizational Change

At a basic psychological level, we fear change because it is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar stimuli in our environment could pose a threat. In other words, we are biologically programmed to be skeptical when changes take place in our environment. IT groups should implement an organizational change management (OCM) framework, like Prosci’s ADKAR model, to help manage organizational awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement around change. A structured approach to OCM can help IT and end users alike accept change and integrate it into standard practice.

Create a Modern Mobile Strategy

At zdnet.com they note that as consumerization and shadow IT have become more prevalent in healthcare, IT teams must recognize the benefits of embracing this change as an opportunity. Since much of this change applies to mobility, creating a comprehensive mobile strategy is an important step for hospitals to take. This includes creating a BYOD program, making infrastructure changes to accommodate new mobile use cases, and implementing enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions designed to accommodate BYOD use cases.

IT teams should plan to create a mobile application plan (MAP) as part of their mobile strategy, to define the strategic vision for deploying and managing mobile applications. This plan should take into consideration all native, mobile web, virtual and hybrid architectures, as well as in-house, vendor-managed, and consumer applications. Also, consider the impact of new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables on clinical workflows. At a basic psychological level, we fear change because it is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar stimuli in our environment could pose a threat.

Mitigate HIPAA Compliance Requirements

In order to take full advantage of new technologies, healthcare IT must ensure that HIPAA technical safeguards are enforced, without slowing down progress. This can be accomplished by implementing a secure text messaging solution that integrates with clinical systems.

Secure texting solutions can enable healthcare providers to securely communicate using any device (including BYOD), receive alarms from clinical systems, and manage workflows within a HIPAA-compliant environment. By providing a secure channel for communication on any smartphone, tablet, or wearable, IT teams can mitigate the regulatory compliance concerns that have traditionally hindered technological progress.
Change is Unavoidable

Change is unavoidable within healthcare and any other industry. The ability to adapt to change by leveraging innovative technological advancements is key to ongoing success in healthcare. Government regulations, such as HIPAA, have traditionally caused some healthcare organizations to be slow to adopt new technology.

Today, newer government initiatives such as Meaningful Use are encouraging more rapid technological advancement. Healthcare technologists must adapt to changes in consumer tech, culture, governing institutions, and within the healthcare industry in general. In any environment, sector, industry or walk of life, adaptation is the most important attribute. As H.G. Wells said, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

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