When health and technology collide

By May 28, 2019 Articles
When health and technology collide

The technology that unpins the effectiveness of modern medicine is largely out of sight, but for medical practitioners and care providers these out of sight services are rarely out of mind.  You see, they really are critical to daily activities.

Let’s take care providers as our first example. Domiciliary care allows someone to continue living in their own home rather than move to residential care. Care requirements range from companionship, to support with everyday tasks such as bathing and meal preparation, some services also include nursing care including administering prescription drugs. Residential care is often recommended for those with round the clock support needs.

Caring for people and their data

To provide high levels of care, a provider must have access to sensitive personal information, not just contact details, but private health data, medical history and more. Data transfer and the security that surrounds it is clearly a top priority.

Medical data is high value. Imagine being able to harvest hundreds of thousands of medical records in seconds, crunch through the numbers and identify trends in patient care, the drugs that are administered and more. There are countless ways that data could be used for commercial gain.

That’s before we’ve started on the infringement of patient privacy. We’re all aware of the risks of exposing our data to unscrupulous individuals and know how it could be used to impersonate us or raid our bank accounts.

The buck stops here

If you’re responsible for IT infrastructure this responsibility will lie heavily on your shoulders. The words we hear the most when speaking with professionals in the medical sector are ‘compliance’, ‘information governance’ and ‘data security’ – these are not just buzz words, these are serious issues, especially when choosing a support provider. So, what should you be looking for to protect your clients, patients, business and your job?

GDPR compliance is good starting point. The legislation sets out clearly what is required for managing and protecting personal data.

Review your systems – that’s everything from hardware to software, who has access, how access is controlled and what backup systems are in place. Limiting access to only those individuals who need it is a simple step towards protecting data.

Once you have your systems clearly defined you can run a risk analysis to identify any potential threats. That could range from theft of devices to checking the level of security in place – penetration testing is a good way to find any weaknesses.

Better still, why not get a professional second opinion? If you’d like to discuss what this looks like, please give our team a call.

Remote working

Whilst domiciliary care providers have a veritable army of workers out in the community, they are not the only ones who ‘work remotely’.

Telemedicine is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the practice of medical care using interactive audio visual and data communications. This includes the delivery of medical care, diagnosis, consultation and treatment, as well as health education and the transfer of medical data.”

This systemisation of care provision has far reaching benefits, the most obvious of which is providing care where it’s needed, when it’s needed, without the limitation of geography. It also allows medical practitioners to call upon world leading experts to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

All this goodness however comes with risk. The primary challenge, as we discussed before, is with the protection of patient data. Additionally, for telemedicine or telehealth service providers is the continuity of service which is critical.

Service continuity

There’s never a good time for systems to fail, but in a medical environment that can literally be the difference between life and death.

Access to patient records, reviewing test results and communicating between professionals are all essential elements in the clinical process. When choosing support contracts or selecting new software to use, we strongly recommend checking the historical ‘up-time’ – this is the time the system is fully functioning and accessible. We work with medical practices to help them achieve a 99.99% up-time. If this is a concern for you, please give the team a call; we’ll be happy to share our knowledge on how to improve your systems.

When disaster strikes

We all remember the WannaCry ransomware attack back in 2017, that left the NHS with an astronomical bill to restore their systems and data. Recovering from such an attack is not exclusive to healthcare, but it’s fair to say it’s more critical than in most businesses.

Having a regular backup is a given, but how often have you tested yours? The time to test is not when you’re trying to recover from system failure.

Having a clear disaster recovery plan accelerates the timeline for system restoration. With a tested backup in place you will have a not just a plan, but a tried, tested and trusted plan to put into action. Talk to your IT support provider and ensure that your disaster recovery plan is ready for action if the need arises.

Next steps for healthcare professionals

  1. Do an audit – know what systems, hardware and software are in use in your practice.
  2. Get a professional review – include penetration testing if you’re concerned about system security.
  3. Update your disaster recovery plan.

If you’re a care provider, or working in the medical profession and are looking for reliable system support, get in touch with our experts. We’re helping doctors and practice managers achieve peace of mind across the UK and we’d love to help you, too.