By Ed Simcox, Healthcare Practice Leader for Logicalis
As the HIMSS15 Conference approaches, the majority of healthcare organizations have already rolled out their electronic health record (EHR) systems. Subsequently, we are now seeing CIOs turn their focus to making sure clinicians connect to these systems in an efficient, effective and secure way. The challenge in getting physicians and nurses to adopt EHR access whole-heartedly relates to usability. They want to be able to easily connect to data about patients wherever and whenever they need to.
Taking into account the prevalence of laptops, tablets and smartphones, users have plenty of computing devices available to them. But many hospitals lack the sophisticated technologies that are necessary to integrate all of these devices with EHR—in a way that presents patient data in a user-friendly, secure and HIPAA-compliant fashion.
Several CIOs that I met with recently told me that they are re-examining the way their hospitals manage end-user computing. In particular, they are focusing on three underlying technology concepts to enable improved EHR connectivity:
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allows clinicians to bring their own personal devices into clinical settings. Because they are familiar with their smartphones and tablets, they can generally manipulate them much more efficiently, and today’s younger clinicians expect this freedom. Hospitals have not traditionally tolerated BYOD, but many CIOs are now reconsidering supporting such devices. The most important issue is security. BYOD devices require encryption with the ability to wipe them if lost or stolen. Hospitals also need policies associated with the use of BYOD devices so users know exactly what to expect when it comes to support.
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) makes it possible for the computing environment to follow clinicians around the hospital environment by creating a consistent, uniform computing experience. If a doctor logs into one device in a patient’s room to work on the patient’s record, and then logs in later to another device in their office to update the record, they can begin exactly where they left off. VDI adds consistency so users don’t have to click through many screens to get back to where they were before. This approach also stores all the data in a secure data center rather than on devices throughout the hospital. Hospitals thus achieve a greater level of security.
- Single Sign-On reduces the amount of usernames and passwords that clinicians have to memorize and manage. Using ID badges or master usernames and passwords speeds access to frequently-used applications and makes sure clinicians are not blocked when they forget a password. This is key because as many as 50 percent of help desk calls are related to password resets. The single sign-on concept thus reduces help desk calls while relieving underlying user frustrations at the same time.
Applying these principles helps you achieve what we call an “Any Access” environment—which means users can connect to any patient data at anytime from anywhere. Because user adoption of technologies is always challenging, healthcare CIOs need to socialize policies and procedures relating to these concepts and then provide ample tech support. This ensures users can access their devices and information without compromising security.
For those organizations that find the challenge overwhelming, it helps to consider partnering with a Managed Service provider. They can implement and manage BYOD, VDI and single sign-on for you so the hospital staff can focus on taking care of patients. A Managed Services partner also allows the hospital IT team to focus on enhancing the technologies that directly impact patient care.
As your healthcare organization considers applying these concepts, remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to the technologies you need to deploy. You may not need all the features a particular solution delivers. It’s best to avoid planning and deploying each component as an independent project. Instead, develop a comprehensive strategy that takes them all into account. If you start first with a needs and capabilities assessment before pulling the trigger, you will likely set off on the right path.
And when you succeed, you will find that you can really drive the value of your EHR system—in a way it helps your organization significantly improve patient care.