Changing laws. New regulations coming into force. Increasing demands from patients. These and many other factors make keeping medical records an increasing challenge. For this purpose, comprehensive IT systems implemented in medical facilities can help. However, will the implementation of a modern IT system in a medical facility cause problems? We analyze this issue in this article.
Why do we need HIS systems?
On the medical systems market, you can find many solutions that can be implemented in healthcare facilities, and their aim is to improve and digitize processes that have been associated with the therapeutic and diagnostic processes for years. Medical systems can be implemented as:
- Central systems, which are a kind of IT center of a medical facility – HIS (hospital information system) class systems
- Peripheral systems – supporting the work of laboratory staff, radiological laboratory or central sterilization room.
The overriding task of all these solutions is to relieve the staff of the need to fill in the documentation manually and to verify deficiencies on an ongoing basis. Comprehensively completed medical documentation is the key to having full, up-to-date and consistent knowledge of the health of individual patients. HIS-class systems often offer functionalities that aggregate the most important information in one place – to avoid the need for tedious searching of documentation, document by document. The IT system has all the information, which improves the ongoing verification of data, but most importantly allows you to increase the control, safety and effectiveness of patient treatment.
Introduction of a new routine, or the fight against habit
Unfortunately, the implementation of an IT system is an action that we can in a sense be compared to a double-edged weapon. Streamlining and relieving staff is achieved only after engaging pre-implementation analysis, stabilization of the implemented system and conducting a number of training sessions for staff at various levels. Unfortunately, the staff’s habit of filling out paper documentation or using another system is among the difficulties faced not only by the management of the computerized facility but also by the IT team. It is on the latter that the duty of ongoing support of medical staff in the challenge of breaking the routine of their former work is incumbent. Humans are creatures of habit, and this fact must be faced in the process of modernizing the work of a medical facility.
Outdated IT infrastructure
Another, often unexpected challenge that we encounter during the digitization of the work of a medical facility is the need to ensure sufficient parameters of computer equipment. The hardware resources of the facility (the parameters of the server and the computer available in the wards or in the offices) may turn out to be insufficient. In extreme cases, there may be no such equipment at all. Then, at the stage of planning computerization, it is necessary to reserve the budget needed for expansion or purchase of new equipment in order to ensure full efficiency and comfort of work. Probably all practitioners will agree that there is nothing worse than a “stuck” system that slows down work and makes everyone frustrated. One of the jokes widespread among IT staff says: “If you want to know the temperament of a person, sit them in front of a computer with a slow Internet connection” – and there is a lot of truth in it. Probably everyone has become angry at least once at a non-working printer or a slow computer. The reasons for slowing the work down may be insufficient hardware resources or simply inefficient Internet connection.
Mature staff and digital competences
When considering the challenges to be faced, it is also worth mentioning the average age of medical staff – the aging society is reflected not only among patients but also among the staff who have to take care of them. Of course, from year to year there is another wave of doctors, who can be safely classified as generation Y or even Z – that is, having grown up in the world of digital technologies. For such people, the implementation of the system in general or its replacement is not a major problem. It can even be safely said that these are people who often support suppliers and have a real impact on the development of new functionalities. Unfortunately, not all generations had a chance to grow up in such conditions, and the greater half of the staff are still of a generation that did not carry a notebook for computer science in their school briefcase. They have invaluable knowledge and many years of experience, and are a treasure of the medical facility. Preparing to work in a new IT system is not easy for them and often requires more attention from the trainers and then the IT department. We know from experience that, in many cases, they are ambitious people who want to prove that they can also manage, which undoubtedly improves the training process.
Software deployment and update time
It is worth paying attention that the selected system is available in the latest technology. The purchase of an IT system is a considerable expense, so it should be a purchase for years and allow long-term updates to the latest version. A good solution is also to choose a web application, which also covers the requirements of responsiveness. These two elements allow you to:
- Use the HIS system on any operating system
- Launch the application from anywhere via a VPN connection
- Use the application on any device – desktop computer, personal laptop or even mobile phone
- Shorten and streamline the processes of installation and updating the system
Cyber-security and privacy of sensitive data
It is impossible not to mention an important element in choosing the final solution – the processing of highly sensitive data (medical data related to the personal information of individual patients). Such information requires special protection, in particular at a time of increasing cyber-attacks. During meetings with software providers, it is worth asking about the methods they follow to ensure the necessary security of their software. The methods that IT systems can offer for this purpose can be divided into two categories of security:
- In the context of control of the work of medical personnel
- In the context of data leakage
A solution that will allow you to ensure security in the context of data leakage will provide the necessary antivirus systems on the server infrastructure and on computers available to staff. It is also worth making sure that the company offering the solution provides current updates. It is good practice to perform a security audit and detailed analysis of the implemented system, which will allow you to detect potential threats. Neither time nor money should be considered wasted on security. Let’s pay special attention to this.
Although the challenges posed by the computerization of a medical institution are many, the added value that they bring is certainly worth this attempt. System selection, pre-implementation analysis, inventory of paths and documentation, implementation and training are complex and time-consuming processes. Many examples show, however, that an efficient IT system and good knowledge of how to use it improve everyday work, help reduce the number of paper documents generated, and save space that should be allocated to the archiving of paper documentation. Complete medical documentation also allows you to avoid unfounded claims from patients. Such solutions allow ongoing control of the status of medical services, verification of settlements with payers, and thus – ongoing financial control.
Let’s return to the question from the beginning of the article – will the implementation of a modern IT system in a medical facility cause many problems? With the right preparation and partner – no! It is worth preparing financially and substantively for the computerization of the facility. Taking the appropriate steps will undoubtedly improve the entire process and ultimately help you go smoothly through the individual stages of implementation, and as a result will guarantee satisfaction with the new era of the facility’s work.
Author: Martyna Elsner - Senior Solutions and Customer Care Consultant at Comarch. A graduate of the Silesian University of Technology, Faculty of Biomedical Engineering with over 9 years of experience in e-Health and Hospital Information Systems. On a daily basis, she cooperates with IT & medical staff at healthcare facilities, providing support in the field of HIS solutions.