While many skills and roles within IT translate well across industries and applications, there are unique aspects of Healthcare IT that must be appreciated for working in this space. Tone deafness to any aspect of what sets apart patient-care focused technology and solutions will make for shaky ground, especially for those overly confident in general IT abilities. Bearing in mind a few key differentiators for health technology, which we’ll cover today, tech professionals can optimally serve healthcare organizations and hospitals embarking on sophisticated solutions and integrations.
Healthcare IT Security Is No Joke?
Anyone who is anywhere near tech solutions that handle Protected Health Information (PHI) must understand HIPAA security requirements. (Often literally, as HIPAA training is standard for BAA relationships, which healthcare IT organizations and vendors often become as part of interoperability efforts.) There are very specific requirements in terms of physical and electronic security measures that organizations must put into place to ensure medical information is not mishandled.
Given HIPAA’s “minimum necessary” perspective, even potential visibility to certain types of data must be locked down to reduce the chances of a breach, which can be catastrophic to health organizations (to the tune of millions of dollars). And it’s not just the EHR implementation that must be ironclad. All interfaces and vendors touching an electronic patient record must observe HIPAA best practices, down to management of personal laptops and access control for the technical team. And for organizations that intend to undergo audits for HITRUST compliance, requirements are even more stringent.
There’s no room for naïveté when it comes to healthcare security, which we can appreciate as patients yet struggle with in practice.
Healthcare End Users Are Clinicians First
Another important aspect of healthcare IT to consider is that end users are often clinicians or health system administration. By nature these users are busy, focused on people (not tech), and can vary widely in terms of technical savviness. This means designing solutions that are not only usable to a range of skill levels and require minimal training, but that the goal is supporting patient outcomes and improving patient care. The domain is known and focused, and successful solutions and tech teams will pivot accordingly.
Sure, the ask is often there for Business Intelligence tools and analytics, just like any other industry looking for opportunities to identify problems and capitalize on progress. But many of the healthcare IT tools on the market are really addressing different facets of the need to collect and aggregate patient data for the continuum of care management. Understanding at the very least the basic use cases for point-of-care activity and clinical operations goes a long way for “speaking the language.” (Doctors don’t typically love technical jargon.)
Patient Identify Management Is Everything
While we’re focusing on patient care as the predominant use case for healthcare IT solutions such as EHRs, understanding the importance of identity management for ePHI is paramount. There is (and has been for years) an overarching trend toward consolidating and aggregating patient information to improve healthcare delivery. A hospital or health organization’s ability to say that Patient X is Patient X at their local PCP’s office, at the ER, and at the walk-in lab — versus Patient Y — is vital to these efforts.
Solutions such as eMPIs exist to manage and resolve this crucial need. Tech folks are no strangers to the importance of data modeling and mapping to ensure information is correctly stored, handled, and queried, but there are added layers of complexity in healthcare when it comes to reconciling identity across sources of medical data…not to mention consent modeling from said sources for sharing/exchange.
Healthcare IT: A Unique Yet Powerful Beast
For those of us who have spent years knee-deep in healthcare technology, it can be easy to forget these nuanced aspects of the industry. They become second nature and well integrated into every aspect of our work (especially on the security front). But for those who are venturing into healthcare IT anew, embrace and understand the quirks that we’ve shared above. We think you’ll come to appreciate this challenging and critically important service as much as we do.