May 17, 2020

Combatting communication problems in community healthcare clinics

Hospital Operations
Hospital Operations
Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital
4 min
quail
Lightweight headset tech will help clinical workers reduce unwanted hold-ups, improve workflow and a much improved patient experience

The notion of a c...

Lightweight headset tech will help clinical workers reduce unwanted hold-ups, improve workflow and a much improved patient experience

The notion of a community healthcare clinic is constantly evolving from the traditional model of a local clinic staffed by general practitioners and nurses, serving mainly rural populations. There is now a renewed interest in these organisations and their potential to deliver a more integrated care service within the community. However, in order to successfully make this transition, there is a need to better equip these clinics with the tools to ensure they're able to cope with the extra demand and the ever-evolving medical treatments that are being practised.

With over 500 community healthcare clinics across the UK, these organisations are an essential part of the healthcare system. Whilst they are investing vital time into evolving their structure and delivering a focused range of medical services, without the right technology in place staff productivity will suffer, hindering their ability to make the most out of not only the current resources available, but any new, innovative resources they decide to invest in.

A collaborative approach

To foster a more productive, collaborative environment, communication should be implemented across the entire team. From diagnostics to preventive treatment, clinical procedure and rehabilitation, delivering a diverse set of services can create a stressful environment, if the team, from receptionist to clinicians, are wasting valuable time trying, without success, to communicate. But as services expand, enabling staff to speak easily with one another to seek answers to questions, locate the right individual and better manage the flow of patients through the appointments process, has become even more important.

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Community healthcare clinics traditionally rely on telephones to communicate internally, but these can often go unanswered. Additionally, this device commonly only works when just two people want to communicate with each other, restricting the ability to send messages, updates and instructions to the whole team. Naturally, therefore, the likelihood of missing key information or mishearing a fellow colleague is increased, creating unnecessary stress and delays.

And with the amount of doctors in community health services rising by 2.6% in 2017, this dated communication tool will not be able to facilitate the growing numbers of staff working in these clinics. They are providing services for extremely dense populations, therefore they require a greater amount of staff to help accommodate this demand. Team this up with the competition these clinics have with other medical centres serving the same geographic, and the need for a better communication tool that will help them provide a positive experience is even more important. 

Clear Communication 

Providing clear, discrete communication to all members at reception and in the clinics will have an extremely positive impact on the running of the community healthcare clinic. Lightweight headset technology will help the team working in these clinics to reduce unwanted hold-ups, improve workflow and offer a much improved experience for each of those patients who walk through the door. And with the ability to coordinate easily with one another, the team can become more productive and efficient to ensure they’re prepared for the demands felt by this expanding healthcare system.

Critically, in this most challenging of jobs, adopting a headset system that operates on a single channel will ensure all members of staff are in permanent communication. This way, doctors, nurses or receptionists are able to approach their colleagues who are working in another part of the clinic with any urgent query or question they may have. This immediate and non-obtrusive communication method is particularly important during times of expansion and innovation, as every team member will be learning and adopting new methods and structures.

Community healthcare clinics are evolving and there is now a growing need to implement digital solutions to provide staff with the ability to hear everything clearly, at all times. There are also other daily practices that can help facilitate a more tranquil environment. Along with headset technology, eliminating unnecessary, frantic noise across the clinic will drastically reduce the distractions all doctors, nurses and receptionists have to face. Not only will this have a positive impact on stress-levels, but it will also make it a lot easier to communicate effectively amongst the team. Daily team meetings are also vital for every member of staff in a community healthcare clinic. With a better understanding of everyone’s workload for that day the team will have greater visibility of who is available to assist with other tasks and enquiries.

By implementing communication tools and ensuring greater visibility across the team clinical operational efficiencies will be increased while staff stress levels will be reduced and their wellbeing improved.

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

#Cybersecurity
#cyberattacks
#digitaltransformation
#covid19
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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