The healthcare industry in Australia relies heavily on technology to deliver efficient patient care while maintaining the security of sensitive data. Whether you're running a small clinic or a larger healthcare facility, finding the right IT partner is vital. In this article, we'll explore some of the important considerations when seeking an IT service provider for your healthcare organisation.
Security, Security, Security…Also Security
In the healthcare sector, data security is a top priority. Patient records, medical history, and sensitive information must be safeguarded against cyber threats and unauthorised access. To complicate matters, the Healthcare sector in Australia has been a prime target of cybersecurity attacks in recent years.
Here are some key elements to consider when looking for an IT service provider in the healthcare sector:
- Data Encryption: Ensure that your IT service provider offers robust data encryption to protect patient information from breaches or theft. Remember, encryption needs to be provided both when data is stored, and also while it is being processed / is in transit.
- Granular Access Controls: An IT service provider needs to be capable of implementing robust access controls and user authentication, to restrict access to sensitive data only to authorised personnel. Ideally, doing so will be their bread and butter.
- Regular Security Updates: Healthcare staff are often fatigued, and frequently work in stressful environments. This makes them prime targets for phishing attacks. Choosing a provider that can manage real-time security updates and patches helps the organisation to stay ahead of emerging threats. This in turn, helps mitigate the threat of a phishing attack from zero-day vulnerabilities. In particular, the health sector offers unique challenges to patch management. Equipment is often used 24/7 and devices are typically shared between a multitude of staff. As such, it’s important to check that an IT service provider has a good track record of servicing healthcare providers.
- Disaster Recovery Planning: It’s common practice for frontline healthcare staff to have a plan in place for when a patient takes a turn for the worse. In much the same way, you’re going to want an IT service provider who can think strategically about the risk of outages, data loss, and other IT “Disasters”. Making sure you pick a service provider who has experience designing, implementing, (and critically) enacting disaster recovery plans, in order to minimise downtime and data loss when the worst occurs.
- Look for an IT service provider who can offer you a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solution. One of the few technologies which is well positioned to assist with data encryption, access control, patch management, and disaster recovery planning is Desktop as a Service (DaaS).
DaaS solutions store data centrally on secure servers and provide users with access via their local device. Critically, the data is not processed or stored locally, it remains on the secure servers and is transmitted (but not saved) to the local device in an encrypted format. This means that should an employee’s device (such as a laptop, tablet, or mobile) be compromised, the data itself is much less likely to also get compromised.
A secondary benefit is that patch management is much easier to facilitate on a handful of homogenous servers than on a vast array of end-user devices. While this doesn’t mean that it’s not also important to patch end user devices (it is), it does make it much easier to protect the critical “central” infrastructure. Moreover, DaaS solutions can simplify disaster recovery planning, as data is centrally stored and can be swiftly restored in case of unforeseen events. By exploring the option of DaaS, healthcare organisations can potentially strengthen their data protection measures and streamline their IT infrastructure, potentially ensuring the security of patient records and sensitive information.
Local Support for Timely Assistance
In a healthcare environment, any disruption to IT services can have a direct impact on patient care and patient outcomes; hence time-is-of the essence. Having a reliable local support team can make all the difference. Here's why local support is crucial:
- Timely Response: Local support staff are uniquely positioned to provide immediate assistance. They can swiftly respond to IT issues, ensuring that healthcare professionals can access vital systems, patient records, and communication tools without delays. This rapid response helps maintain the continuity of care and minimises any potential disruptions, which is critical in healthcare situations.
- On-Site Assistance: While many IT issues can be resolved remotely, there are instances where on-site assistance is indispensable, especially for complex technical problems. Local support teams can expedite on-site troubleshooting by dispatching skilled technicians to the healthcare facility. These technicians are familiar with the facility's setup and can quickly identify and resolve issues, ensuring that critical systems and equipment are back in operation promptly. This minimisation of downtime ultimately influences patient outcomes.
Wi-Fi is the backbone of a vast number of healthcare IT systems, facilitating electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, and IoT devices. However, just like wi-fi, a lot of medical imaging devices, such as X-Ray Machines rely on the EM (Electromagnetic) spectrum to function.
This means that it’s quite common for rooms to use shielding; to contain potentially harmful radiation being emitted by the imaging equipment. This is one of the reasons pagers continue to be used by major hospitals - as the low frequency wavelength they run on is much better at penetrating the obstacles.
Unfortunately, this makes optimising a Wi-Fi network extremely difficult in healthcare environments, as the Wi-Fi signals can’t penetrate the shielded sections of the buildings. An IT service provider can help you mitigate this in the following ways:
- Coverage Assessment: When engaging an IT Services provider as a healthcare organisation, it’s import to find one who is capable of conducting a Wi-Fi coverage assessment. Conduct Wi-Fi audits to identify dead spots and areas with poor connectivity, ensuring healthcare professionals have consistent access to critical systems and patient data.
- Future Planning: As healthcare technology evolves, Wi-Fi also continues to change. This is why it’s essential to find an IT service provider who can offer insights for future network planning and expansion, ensuring the IT infrastructure can support emerging technologies.
Selecting the right IT service provider is crucial for ensuring the smooth operation of your healthcare facility. Focus on solutions that enhance data security, offer local support for timely assistance, and optimise your Wi-Fi network for seamless connectivity. By considering these solutions, you'll be better equipped to deliver high-quality patient care while maintaining the integrity of your IT environment.