Hospitals and data efficiency through EHR
Written by Joyce Morse
One of the big concerns for patients and even for the hospitals themselves is that all information be maintained for better and more accurate patient care.
The numbers regarding hospital mistakes that result in patient deaths are staggering. In fact, they continue to rise in spite of new technology.
According to a report by the Institute of Medicine from 1999, as many as 98,000 people died each year due to hospital errors. In 2010, that number almost doubled to 180,000. The latest study from Journal of Patient Safety is estimating from 210,000 and 440,000 deaths related to poor patient care. How can hospitals reduce these statistics?
Accurate Medication Administration
The top hospitals are making it a priority to improve patient care and reduce errors that lead to illnesses and death. They have increased the time that nurses spend on bedside care and have created new checklists for surgical procedures.
Medication errors are one of the big errors that cause complications and serious consequences.
Many hospitals have utilized new technology to require computer entry for prescriptions. This eliminates transcription errors.
This technology also prevents doctors from prescribing more than the recommended dose without taking extra measures. The rest of the medical staff must then use the same technology to administer the medication.
Some hospitals are using medication bracelets that must be scanned to ensure the correct person is getting the medication.
Because this medication is entered electronically, it is matched against the rest of the patient's record. This prevents the doctor or staff from administering medicine that could interact with other medicines or that the patient may be allergic to. This is another method for how big data is transforming healthcare.
Hospitals are not only working on preventing infection caused by contaminated devices, but on containing diseases to prevent the spread of infectious conditions.
For instance, door signs are put in place on rooms of contagious patients. An electronic device can screen for early signs of sepsis to begin treatment early and help prevent deaths.
Staffs are also using checklists to ensure that they are using proper procedures when working with patients to prevent the spread of infection.
Surgical and After-Surgery Care
Some hospitals are looking at new ways to improve patient care during and after surgery to prevent mistakes.
For instance, there are checklists that must be completed prior to the surgery. Top hospitals even perform drills to practice providing emergency life-saving care to a patient in the ICU. This helps to prevent the chaos that can happen in a life-or-death situation. Staff changing shifts may update their replacements right by the patient's bedside, which helps prevent misinformation from being given or received.
While more improvements need to be made, the hospitals that are focusing on these changes are making headway in the area of patient safety.
The numbers show that these new procedures are working, and more hospitals need to consider implementation.
About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including SEO and healthcare.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
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.
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.
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.