Where to Start When Upgrading Your Hospital’s IT Infrastructure

It's commonly said that a great structure cannot be constructed on top of a poor foundation. The same is true for the development of IT infrastructure in the domain of healthcare. With an ever-rising need for state-of-the-art healthcare services, large hospitals and their subsidized branches are seeking more secure and reliable IT solutions.

Data storage, data exchange, and data security are the most important concerns of healthcare providers. But such things cannot be achieved without a well-defined system in place to deal with electronic health records, wireless medical equipment, emerging telehealth solutions, and other resources. Today, advanced technology is improving data-sharing methods, which are vital to ensuring patients' involvement and safety.

Clinical integration initiatives supported by healthcare companies have opened doors for investments in new business models, partners, and revenue streams. For example, almost half of health system leaders said they had completed a merger or acquisition in the past two years (according to a survey by Premier), and 77% said they planned to do so in the next two years. It should be noted, however, that these changes come during an era of greater shortages of labor, wage cuts, and unpaid care.

The Modern State of Healthcare IT

Health organizations have always been on the cutting edge of medical technology due to the technological complexity of healthcare facilities. Yet, in the past decade, the implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR) has ranged from provider to provider.

In areas such as electronic imaging, many healthcare organizations incorporated limited integrations but eventually implemented more robust EHR systems as technology progressed. The advantages of EHR have recently become more evident in the lives of patients and doctors as technology became more mobile. For instance, patients may also access protected records from mobile devices or home computers in a broad, interconnected healthcare system as they connect from a remote location with their doctor or pharmacist.

For diagnostic purposes, physicians and specialists need to easily exchange patient data across locations. Electronic health records in rural areas help bridge the geographical gaps between distinct locations, which enables patients to receive consultation remotely, as people did in order to survive in the period of pandemic: COVID-19.

Adoption of AI in Healthcare

AI is increasingly playing a role in medtech, specifically in diagnostic fields. To share one example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University's teaching hospital are using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect potentially lethal blood diseases at a very early stage. Doctors use AI-enhanced microscopes to scan blood samples for dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and staphylococcus at a faster rate than manual scanning.

To teach the machines how to scan for bacteria, the researchers used various machine learning techniques. In the training phase, 25,000 pictures of blood samples were fed into the algorithm and then testing was done. With 95% precision, the machines learned how to recognize and predict harmful bacteria in the blood.

Challenges of Upgrading Hospital IT Infrastructure

A recent survey asked more than 100 health managers, CFOs, and CIOs from hospitals about their top health system challenges. Forty-eight percent of those polled cited maintaining and upgrading IT infrastructure, confirming that health IT infrastructure was identified as one of the key challenges which healthcare executives are facing.

According to the survey, there exist a number of issues which may derail the successful implementation of new technology into an existing system. Some of these include:

  1. Around 70% of doctors and staff are resistant to change due to a fear of adopting new workflows and a reluctance to learn new skills.
  2. Almost 64% oppose the high cost of implementing up-to-date IT solutions, and one prominent reason is uncertainty associated with return on investment (ROI).
  3. 61% believe that problems with complex new devices, poor technology interfaces, and the haphazard introduction of new services and employment of new hardware may cause systematic errors.

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Choosing the Right Healthcare IT Upgrades

The decision to upgrade IT should always be made by CFOs, doctors, and executives in consultation with their direct care providers. On one side, there are skilled professionals who will use these tools on a day-to-day basis, and on the other, there are people who need to deal with financial matters. Higher-ups are obliged to satisfy both parties to keep the system running smoothly.

Healthcare organizations considering improvements typically have legacy IT infrastructure that will not age gracefully over the course of 5 or more years. However, replacing an older environment piece-by-piece is a lot more difficult than just starting from scratch. It is essential to conduct proper research and analysis before jumping into an IT infrastructure upgrade, and it is also important to know exactly what makes technology upgrades successful without disrupting established workflows.

Here are important points to consider when upgrading your hospital’s IT infrastructure:

Secure wireless networks

Your local network is the foundation of any IT infrastructure solution for health. In hospitals especially, devices have to be used across a large space and in different environments, so it is necessary to build a network for coverage.

You have to make sure that communication works well upstairs as well as in the hallways or inside wards. In critical scenarios, communication delays are unacceptable. Isolating parts of the IT infrastructure for upgrades can raise compatibility issues that take time to resolve. If a wireless network is too old to handle a new cloud deployment, the wireless network needs to be upgraded before any new technology is implemented on top of it.

Carefully planned IT roadmap

Proactively mapping the sequence of IT upgrades prevents compatibility issues and ensures that the IT budget is managed effectively. There are several levels of successful healthcare IT infrastructure, ranging from low-level hardware to administrative software to customer-facing portals.

Whether you're addressing storage concerns or data management, all integrations need to ensure that medical data is secure and accessible everywhere and at any time. A well-planned IT infrastructure is composed of useful solutions or services that protect and provide secure access to all of the information that an organization needs to be operational.

Budget constraints

IT upgrades are commonly derailed by budgetary limitations and the bureaucracy associated with approving new expenditures. Each aspect of the deployment of IT infrastructure at the enterprise level is costly due to the technology and personnel requirements for their operations and maintenance.

A spending plan that plainly documents upcoming spend and projects the ROI of individual solutions is a good first step. You should also ensure that you leave some wiggle room for unexpected cost overruns to prevent your upgrade plan from grinding to a halt.

Staffing changes

Modern IT improvements can create the need for new staff positions and eliminate the need for others as new solutions streamline workflows and processes. Certain software specialists may be needed to manage and maintain innovative solutions. Current IT staff will also need to be trained in emerging technologies. Additional facilities and security staff may also be required for large-scale institutions.

Automated Healthcare Integrations

Entrepreneurs and technology companies are focusing on providing technological tools that can meet regulations, lower costs and improve the effectiveness of both health managers and health professionals. But their success or failure is highly dependent on multiple factors like financial resources, effective guidance, and, perhaps most of all, a willingness to adapt and embrace change.

Healthcare providers should remain focused on how they can use tech to improve the quality of care – not just to increase the speed at which it is delivered. Here are some automated healthcare integrations and solutions that have changed the face of health administration in last decade:

  1. Electronic Health Records
  2. Interactive personal health records
  3. Telehealth technologies
  4. Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE)
  5. E-prescriptions
  6. Portal technology
  7. Self-service kiosks
  8. Remote monitoring tools
  9. Wearable technology
  10. Genome sequencing

According to surveyed providers, the most worthwhile benefits for healthcare organizations are:

  • Remote patient monitoring, which reduces the need for office visits by 69%.
  • Patient engagement platforms that enable patients to monitor their own health
  • EHRs, which automate time-consuming activities like invoicing or maintaining physical patient records.

Conclusion

Upgrading your IT Infrastructure to serve your patients and hospitals is an ongoing consideration for any healthcare administrator. Infrastructure upgrades can help your team leverage mobile technology, optimize staff workflows, and improve patient care.

Crowdbotics offers managed app development for custom healthcare app builds, and our PMs and developers have a broad range of expertise within highly regulated sectors like healthcare. If you are considering a custom solution to increase your hospital's efficiency and improve patient outcomes, get in touch with our experts for a detailed quote today.

Originally published:

December 31, 2020