Many rural towns across America are battling to stay alive as their populations dwindle leaving a large percentage of inhabitants separated by miles of geography unable to access basic systems of support like healthcare. Rural and community healthcare entities play an integral part in their communities social and economic success in providing everything from emergency services to maternity care.
Rural healthcare entities operate in a much different way than their larger metro counterparts, and technology is everchanging which is why it’s critical for all stakeholders involved to understand the technological obstacles that must be overcome to ensure the success of these institutions for generations to come. Here are the top 5 challenges to Rural Healthcare IT.
Insufficient Capital to Support Critical IT Infrastructure
At the top of this list is undoubtedly the most impactful of the 5 challenges faced by rural healthcare providers as they are faced with greater economic challenges than ever before. While economic conditions in rural hospitals are far from ideal; it’s not all bad news.
The good news is that there are ways healthcare providers can find assistance with capital resources through federal programs where eligible non-profit rural healthcare providers can receive a 65% reduction in costs to implement telecommunications and data networking devices. Over $150 million a year goes unclaimed, so it’s important for hospital executives to secure funding. Think about what an extra $100,000 to half a million in savings could do for a hospital?
Attracting Talent and Employee Retention
Hiring the right employees and retaining key employees can be two sides of the same coin. Technology has been shown to affect employee morale and healthcare employee burnout. Whether your looking for an IT manager to supply end user support or your hiring a data analyst; rural healthcare providers are often limited in the availability of qualified candidates for these critical roles.
Outsourcing technology can ensure operational stability as there are great risks if or when an IT director decides to leave or if doctors and staff are desiring to leave because technology is hindering their daily work and not supporting their goals.
Regulatory Compliance/Cybersecurity Burdens
Yearly security risk assessments are mandated by federal law however many administrators may not be aware of the extensive nature of such assessments. Security Risk Assessments or SRA’s as their known in the industry are not the kind of assessments you can check all the boxes, pass with ease, and then set it on the shelf. Assessment of security risks are apart of a rigorous ongoing process of continuously improving security measures over a span of time. Failure to meet federal guidelines can mean loss of technology incentive funds and paying penalties for violations.
Another often overlooked aspect of cyber security in rural healthcare is the risk of malicious hacking and the stealing of patient health information which can be sold on the black market for thousands of dollars for a single record vs just 10 cents for individual social security numbers. The trend is for hackers to also target healthcare facilities to deploy ransomware to hold data hostage for big payouts, usually in the form of crypto- currencies. Rural Hospitals can be more susceptible to hackers because they usually have less resources to devote to the full protection of systems.
EMR/EHR’s are the lifeblood of any medical organization, but what happens when systems that “speak different languages” do not function with one another creating disruptions and hindering productivity? One of the largest gaps we encounter with our clients is sporadically and poorly scheduled EMR/EHR updates that unleash chaos on IT systems and can create downtime for entire departments for hours at a time. All of this is chaos is completely unnecessary and preventable. Ideally this situation can be managed by coordinating with the EMR vendor to schedule software updates during non-peak times when engineers can directly interface with the EMR provider to ensure a smooth update does not interfere with business operations.
Insufficient Executive Insight into Technology Operations
Many seasoned IT Directors lack the tools to provide the valuable information necessary to support executive decision making around IT operations. Executives not only want information but insights that will guide them on when and where to fund measures that will create opportunities and lower risks.
A 3rd party trusted advisor like Mandry use advanced enterprise level IT tools to provide greater visibility on the impacts of technology throughout all levels of the organization. Executive level reporting can show the allocation of resources, network health, and a lifecycle map that will ensure all stakeholders of how technology functions to support the overall mission and goals they envision.