May 17, 2020

4 Ways Big Data Can Improve Your Hospital Operations

Health Tracking
Cloud Services
Big Data
Hospital Operatio
3 min
Big data allows patient health records to be shared between physicians. This can prove especially vital when a patient is moving between floors during a hospital stay.
The medical world is growing with each new patient and hospital data is growing right along with it. From medical records to network operations, if your...

The medical world is growing with each new patient and hospital data is growing right along with it. From medical records to network operations, if your hospital isn't taking advantage of a healthy dose of big data, then your management team is missing out.

When it comes to healthy data management, here are just a few ways big data can improve your hospital.

1. Patient Health History  

Nowhere is data expanding at such a rapid rate than in the field of medicine.

Each new patient comes with their very own set of medical data and hospitals are really beginning to feel the data management crisis. By turning to big data, your management team can create a better healthcare infrastructure.

Big data collects and stores massive sets of data that your hospital can use to keep tabs on everything from patient recovery rates to hospital finances.

As the following article, “Big data in” shows, one just comes right after the other, which is why big data is improving hospitals in some pretty unique ways.

2. Electronic Health Records

Patient health records are an important step in ensuring your hospital gives the most appropriate care to its visitors. The problem is records that aren't intuitive and immediately available don't have as great of an effect on a patient's recovery rate or the quality of their future visits.

Big data is making it possible for electronic health records to make their way into hospitals. With electronic health records, doctors can get the most up-to-date information on their patients' changing health conditions.

For example, the Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas uses electronic health records to automatically input health data into the system before the patient leaves the room.

This ensures that if a patient is transferred to another wing in the hospital, the next physician to receive the patient will have real-time patient records.

3. Predictive Analytics

If your hospital's management team isn't convinced about big data, then the analytics that go with it will certainly change your mind.

Big data analytics in the healthcare field are helping physicians better track their patients' medical conditions by collecting and analyzing each piece of the medical data puzzle.

Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Texas for example is using big data analytics to assess their asthma patients' medical history all the way down to the number of inhaler refills they've had in the past 12 months.

By scouring data sets like this, pediatricians at the hospital can get a complete understanding of their patients.

4. Readmissions and Big Data

Medicare and Medicaid are instating a new rule that charges hospitals for any patients who are readmitted in the first 30 days of being released. This could end up costing your hospital a substantial amount of money with each Medicare patient.

Fortunately, big data can automatically correlate patient data and analyze regression rates to avoid premature releases. By tracking the data behind regression rates, hospitals can discover any unforeseen issues and extend patient discharge dates until all medical concerns are alleviated.

When it comes to managing your hospital's data, let big data help get your medical world running more efficiently.

About the author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including medical technology and big data

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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