“Technology is great when it works...” is a phrase we often hear, but what about “Technology is great when it’s used correctly”? Sometimes we find that technology meant for good, can often (unknowingly at times, knowingly in other circumstances) be used for evil … ok that might be too strong of a word, but what I’m trying to say is that technology can be misused and likely is being misused somewhere in your healthcare organization.
Sometimes it takes a Sherlock Holmes to find where the missuses are, but in some situations it may be as obvious as an elephant in a flock of sheep.
Today we bring you 3 technology ailments that a few of our consultants have witnessed within healthcare organizations they’ve worked with.
- Jim Green, IT Consultant | Excessive Printing:
I worked with a hospital CEO who had his assistant print EVERY e-mail he received. She would then dutifully file them in a file cabinet. Of course this required a sizable portion of the assistant’s time. When I asked about it, the assistant said, “he just never really adapted to the whole e mail thing…”
This may be an extreme example, but similarly, we often see hospital and clinic staff retain paper-based processes after implementing electronic systems, which can be just as ridiculous as the above example. Often the explanation is ‘just to be on the safe side’ or even ‘it’s just the way we have always done this.’ Countless productivity hours are wasted due to these processes. In these times where every dollar counts, we need to start asking “why do we do it this way?”.
- Jeff Stravers, IT Consultant | Complex Passwords - Partial PHI Protection:
In an effort to meet HIPAA security requirements, a facility I worked with was enabling complex passwords along with their password expiration policy. That’s an important policy to have in place, but the complex passwords do no good if we are sharing usernames and passwords for “productivity sake” as this facility was.
So, if your nurses are signing in for the provider, as the provider, to “make things easier for the docs,” this is not only a HIPAA security rule violation, but it’s a dangerous opportunity for hackers and thieves to access PHI when it can be easily protected by forcing strict individual user authentication and screen locking rules. I realize timeouts and sign-ins are time consuming, so we might have to spend just a bit more to enable individual authentication in a streamlined fashion. The technologies exist to make this a non-issue and these technologies are a relatively minor investment when compared with the productivity lost and potential security risks.
- Derek Vossberg, Systems Engineer Team Lead | Wi-Fi No-no’s:
I’ve seen healthcare organizations who don’t separate guest and staff Wi-Fi, thus giving patients and guests the wireless key to their organization’s network to access Internet. While the patient or guest may not ever intend to do harm with access to the staff Wi-Fi, often their traffic travels the same paths as the hospital data. This is not only a security risk but it also affects the overall network performance.
When the performance of a network is slow, you know the drill; your clinicians and staff start complaining. Ultimately this also impacts patient experience if their care documentation is taking longer than usual, it may be taking longer to get registered, and sometimes it can be as serious as slowing down a lab or blood test result… all because we haven’t implemented a robust wireless network and associated internet solution. We can no longer avoid taking an enterprise approach to infrastructure design and implementation. Ultimately, pinching a penny here will cost us two later in the form of reduced productivity or reduced clinician/ patient satisfaction.
If you think your healthcare organization suffers from one of these technology ailments, here are a few suggestions for mitigating the misuse of technologies:
- LEAN events can help organizations regain efficiencies from the largest cases of misused system workflows all the way to the excessive printing issues by putting patient value at the center of your technology decision making and workflow re-design.
- Make one more small investment in your overall IT solution to create a vital balance of proper security and clinician productivity. Technologies like Healthcast’s QwikAccess or Imprivata’s OneSign are worth the investment.
- Hold your network infrastructure systems and strategies up against the light of best practice and move toward best practices, tier one vendors and hardened solutions. If you are wondering where to find a practical approach to best infrastructure best practice, take a look at the ICE Healthcare Grade Network Model™.