Healthcare IT should take a page from retail’s book when it comes to legacy infrastructure. While the two industries struggle with many of the same challenges around outdated technology, retail has largely stepped up and embraced edge technology and other solutions to get over legacy hurdles.
That comparison, though, is a little unfair. Healthcare challenges are inherently more complex, and leaders are making decisions in higher stake situations—however, that’s exactly why it’s even more important healthcare decision-makers take the dangers of legacy infrastructure seriously and examine ways to break down big problems into manageable pieces.
Beware the threats facing modern healthcare IT
The inconveniences of today’s legacy network infrastructures are poised to become tomorrow’s major headaches. IT leaders are facing unprecedented change on multiple fronts, including value-based care initiatives, the rise of healthcare consumerism, population health programs, and the unrelenting creep of the Internet of Medical Things. For many facilities, they’re all coming at the same time.
This leaves many IT teams pressured to keep up with requests from other departments to support increasingly complex demands—demands that are continually expanding to include patient-facing technology and ballooning amounts of data. In this dynamic, legacy systems are barriers to innovating and maintaining basic competitiveness in healthcare IT ecosystems, which are growing more elaborate by the second.
At the same time, the most pressing threats facing healthcare IT are set to become even more dangerous in the future. A recent Protenus Breach Barometer Snapshot cited that in Q2 of 2018, 3.14 million patient records were compromised across 142 data breaches. While a large number of those individual breaches came from inside actors, a strong majority of the actual impacted patient accounts were compromised as a result of hacking—a threat legacy IT healthcare systems simply aren’t prepared to face.
With breach costs averaging $717,000 per incident in healthcare and a general expectation that most, if not all, hospitals will experience a breach at some point in time, modernizing infrastructure is directly tied to the fiscal health of any healthcare organization. But where can you start?
The IT leader who decides to make legacy system upgrades a top priority faces a daunting task. Even your most basic healthcare IT stacks are highly complex structures, with exorbitant change costs associated with most upgrades.
Confront your legacy infrastructure issues
The industry overall has responded to those challenges with an almost universal embrace of partnerships. According to a recent Black Book study, 98 percent of hospital leaders are evaluating partnership with third-party vendors to realize cost-efficiencies in both clinical and nonclinical functions. This type of partnership already has a long and generally positive history in healthcare, which is why, with the proper approach, it’s ideally positioned to answer the legacy IT question.
One of the most effective ways to get the most out of healthcare IT partnerships is to step away from trying to tackle the entire legacy monster at one time. Instead, it’s best to break changes and upgrades into smaller, more manageable pieces and entrust those pieces to qualified vendors.
This approach allows IT teams to free up time and resources, improve scalability, and increase reliability (critical in the 24/7/365 world of healthcare), while leveraging the knowledge and specialization of partners who have both deeper insights into specific network challenges and broader perspectives on the industry as a whole.
Understand how a strategic partner can help
As one example, consider the potential of partnering with a managed print services vendor. Printers often go overlooked as a threat vector, and catching them up to the needs of a hospital’s specific security risk profile might take more time and specialization than a busy IT team can handle.
That was the case for Baptist Health in Louisville, Kentucky. The healthcare network was facing the challenge of revisiting print security after it had been largely neglected during the creation of a system-wide IT security team. Rather than place the burden on its security professionals, Baptist Health partnered with a managed print services (MPS) provider to implement print security standards that protected 3,000 printers across seven hospitals and over 300 outlying facilities, including clinics and physician offices. This partnership boosted security and eliminated the need for individual, printer-level intervention.
On another note, Merck, a global healthcare leader, initiated MPS to reduce costs, enhance efficiency, and bring in an element of sustainability to their organization. Their ultimate goal was to improve end user productivity, and MPS allowed them to level up their printing by upgrading legacy infrastructure and modernizing it to a more efficient and environmentally friendly printer model. The result was happy users who could print quickly and efficiently.
Make the right vendor choice
Realizing the full benefit of partnering with an expert for legacy system upgrades frequently comes down to smart vendor selection. Look for a partner who:
Knows how to increase productivity
Focuses on savings
Can provide solid governance documentation
Is focused on the end consumer
To learn more about what this should look like in the healthcare space, HIMSS offers guidance on some simple rules to follow when selecting a partner.