The recent explosion of telemedicine and patient portals signals that the healthcare industry has begun to truly prioritize digital-first business models for patient and clinical interactions. One AmWell study found that in 2020, 80% of physicians reported having a virtual visit, up from just 22% pre-pandemic. And while telemedicine was previously thought of as a temporary or optional feature for providers, it is expected to become a standard feature for many providers post-pandemic. For instance, the same survey found more than half of all consumers said they expect to use telehealth options more often following COVID-19 than they did before the pandemic.
Even beyond telemedicine, digitization and AI have created the opportunity for more precise predictions about patient care and outcomes. While this transition is necessary to service patients and accurately treat them, it is important for health care organizations to prioritize security and compliance when transitioning to or expanding digital-first strategies.
What it Means To Be Digital-First
To be digital-first, health care organizations are prioritizing investments in cloud solutions, SaaS, machine learning, AI and analytics, as well as application modernization. Notably, cloud application use has increased dramatically due to the development of mobile applications for improved patient experience and operational efficiency. Some providers are also embracing agile and low-code development tools and methodologies to adapt more quickly in the future. Health care organizations are adding new capabilities and services by quickly creating apps using intelligent forms to improve both the patient and clinician experience.
Looking ahead, organizations must consider how they will build out their digital capabilities – from telehealth and wearables to smart PPE and storage – while balancing data privacy, patient intelligence and the need to provide a strong patient and provider experience. However, this digital transformation cannot be accomplished successfully if it is not delivered in a secure and compliant manner.
Prioritizing Security and Threat Management
Unfortunately, health care providers and physician groups are seemingly ideal and easy targets for hackers because of the industry’s tendency to store large volumes of protected health information (PHI) and personal financial data on outdated and poorly managed network systems. A recent report revealed a health care data record is worth a minimum $250 for criminals, which is significantly more than the next most valuable record, a payment card, which is worth $5.40.
According to MIT, 52% of health care leaders indicated they are allocating more than 25% of their IT budgets to security and threat management. Additionally, 58% of health care respondents indicated they will put more emphasis on defending against cyberattacks over the next 12 to 18 months.
While the industry as a whole is starting to prioritize security and threat management, it is now at higher risk with the significant increase in patient and clinician interactions and client data in the cloud and on mobile devices. During the pandemic, there has also been a surge in cyberattacks and ransomware targeting the health care sector. Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS), the Department of Human Services, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) put out a joint alert that a wave of new ransomware attacks on health care facilities are imminent. Clearly, health care organizations must double down on security and threat management.
So, What’s Next?
As health care organizations continue to balance COVID-19 cases, vaccine delivery, changes in patient care, existing pre-pandemic patient flow and compliance and security requirements, adopting a multi-pronged approach to cybersecurity is essential for greater resiliency. This year, expect to see improvements in existing software, platforms and applications, as well as new technologies that will aim to support health care organizations’ security and digital-first strategies. Many providers have had to quickly add support for COVID-19 testing and vaccination to their mobile applications portfolio, and forms automation has significantly reduced the effort to develop and deploy these applications.
Additionally, implementing endpoint security solutions that incorporate AI, automation and machine learning allows organizations to detect threats in real-time. Just as important are data backup and recovery strategies, which ensure the confidentiality, integrity and security of data. In the event of a hardware failure, theft, virus attack, human error or natural disaster, health care organizations can continue operating with minimal disruption.
Ultimately, health care organizations must consider the threat they face and invest appropriately. Breaches and interruptions can result not just in reputational damage but also in lost revenue, damage to patients’ personal finances and government fines. Prioritizing improved security at every endpoint is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity in our current environment.