May 17, 2020

The One Thing Every Hospital Can Do to Improve Operations and Reduce Costs

Hospital Operations
Hospital Operations
3 min
Patients must be told ahead of time that personal information will be connected with survey answers.
SMS surveys can provide valuable information for hospital service providers.

But understanding how and why is important to making sure that surveys are...

SMS surveys can provide valuable information for hospital service providers.

But understanding how and why is important to making sure that surveys are an effective means of improving hospital and patient relations.

Do hospitals need to be competitive?

Hospitals and medical care clinics face competition just like any other service provider.

With the emergence of walk-in emergency care and standard care clinics, hospitals face even more competition from privately-owned clinics and franchises.

Patients looking to save money or get fast and simple service have more options than ever before. They can walk into a clinic and get a student vaccination or have a suspicious mole looked at on the day, instead of waiting weeks for an appointment with their PCP.

[READ MORE] 3 Areas of Health Improved by Efficient Hospital Communication

Hospitals need to be competitive in order to get their market share of preventative and emergency care receipts. They can't afford not to.

Why do hospitals need to be competitive?

In this day of online reviews and forums, patients talk often and freely about the quality of care they receive from hospitals.

From a mother giving birth to a family member visiting a cardiac patient, online hospital reviews are heartfelt, honest, and at times, scathing.

Hospitals need to be competitive and to try their best to make every patient visit successful in terms of patient satisfaction and medical outcomes.

The reason is that it's highly likely the experience will be posted online and seen in either a negative or positive light.

The Power of Surveys

Patient surveys, when done well, can help both hospitals and patients.

When a patient or community survey is done, there's an inherent assumption that the hospital cares about giving quality care that they are seeking the opinions of those who are most impacted by the service, and that in light of survey answers, they will make necessary adjustments.

One hospital that conducted a successful community survey is Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton, Montana.

They discovered that their emergency room care left room for improvement, according to the survey results. They subsequently addressed the issues, and residents seem to appreciate the changes.

[READ MORE] Your Hospital Might Be Losing Money: 5 Quick Fixes to Basic Inefficiencies

Had this hospital not bothered to ask the community what they thought of their services, it's likely that the dissatisfaction would have continued. It's also likely that this hospital's competition would have taken up some of their profits.

In this case study, both patients and the hospital benefited from the survey.

Rules Governing Hospital Surveys

HIPAA, of course, has something to say about hospital surveys.

As the following article looks at, it's perfectly okay for hospitals to conduct SMS surveys to satisfy customers as long as they are quality assessment and improvement activities surveys.

There are a few more rules regarding any surveys that hospitals conduct, however.

Patients must be told ahead of time that personal information will be connected with survey answers.

Also, patients must be told when the hospital intends to try to collect the information. There may be additional restrictions on hospital surveys, according to individual state regulations.

As long as hospitals abide by HIPAA rules and respect patients' rights, there is no reason why surveys can't be an integral part of every hospital's growth and services plan.

About the author: Kate Supino writes extensively about best business practices

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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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