A year ago, it was difficult to project to the end of the pandemic, much less beyond. Now, as organizations shift towards post-pandemic functionality, and administrations shuffle their priorities for the “next normal,” continued financial recovery amid an ecosystem of data protection, remote workers, and incident response is looking more complex than ever—nowhere more so than in healthcare. 

Healthcare has long been one of the most challenging industries for large-scale change. Enter COVID-19, and sweeping digitization efforts were essentially ground to a halt, followed by a slew of cyberattacks against hospitals that took aim at overworked staff to mine high volumes of valuable PHI—all while staff scrambled to serve critical patients in high volume and institute telehealth on an unprecedented scale.

In fact, we know that while the pandemic stunted certain technology investments, virtual care was profoundly accelerated. Even before data analytics and cybersecurity, Feder and Gupta’s Guide to the 2021 Healthcare Provider CIO Survey reveals that telehealth has risen to become the most common area of technology investment for 2021.

Today, as vaccines help the pandemic begin to settle, and permanent shifts in life and work come to light, what exactly is on the horizon for telemedicine and information security in healthcare?

1. The Future Is Digital

Although healthcare tends to be inherently localized, moving care and patient access online for the age of COVID inspired nationwide consolidation. Comprehensive patient portals and healthcare conglomerates jumped in relevance, offering more streamlined alternatives to individual hospitals and clinics.

One impact of consolidation was widespread reprioritizing. What matters in a system everyone is going to use? The first and most critical step is building trust—which means being transparent in your security processes and making data easily accessible to your patients.

Accessibility also extends to monitoring for telemedical and in-person care alike. Sharpington, Gupta, and Pessin’s Healthcare Forecast Analysis (2021) estimates that in order to manage chronic conditions from home, global remote monitoring will increase from one in 48 people with a clinical device to one in 16 by 2030. In the same timeframe for on-site facilities, clinical monitoring is expected to increase from one device per global hospital bed to four devices, and U.S. care homes plan to expand monitoring devices per resident from two to 17.

Although healthcare conglomerates and digital monitoring won’t replace local health providers anytime soon, every organization has a responsibility to incorporate compliance and security capabilities in digital spaces from the very beginning. Mike Jones’ Q&A for CIOs and digital care advises that team collaboration (CTC) tools consolidate clinical communication, nurse call, call center operations, and core clinical operations to connect and inform your staff across the virtual and the physical, as well as make for smoother overall transitions for your patients.

And the buck doesn’t stop at care—when it comes to incident response, communication is essential, both to manage unfolding risks and salvage your reputation. One advantage of shifting to the digital is streamlining those critical communications and getting your team on the same page as fast as possible.

2. This Time, It’s Personalized

It can be easy to assume consolidation will come with standardization, but healthcare isn’t one-size-fits-all. As patient access and hospital systems become more digital, data will play a greater role in defining the patient experience… and with that shift comes the opportunity for a more prominent sense of choice.

For instance, how might your system use available PHI to tailor your patient’s experience? Can it provide more expansive care for different cultures and communities? That’s why it’s important not just to digitize your information, but to look into smarter systems with an enhanced capacity to engage with people. You have the opportunity to look into a higher volume of options for personalization, interfaces that prioritize accessibility, and even AI-based systems that integrate more of the healthcare experience.

With smarter systems, however, comes a need for smarter IT security strategies. A heavily personalized system will have access to a large catalog of PHI and rely on the IoT to interface with on-site equipment—in fact, the Healthcare Forecast Analysis projects that IoT spending by healthcare providers will grow from $25 billion in 2020 to $63 billion in 2030. Needless to say, covering your endpoints will be more essential than ever.

3. Supply Rising

As healthcare has shifted to preventative over time, so too will IT security models. In a more digital space, preparedness is key, and that doesn’t just mean being proactive in communicating with your clients—it also means frequently assessing your vulnerabilities and focusing on your cyber-resilience.

Experts suggest that increases in virtual care capabilities are projected to make all the difference. Virtual visits, remote patient monitoring, and even automated clinical triage all lend the opportunity to survey, maintain, and increase activity levels to facilitate backlog reduction and demand moderation.

Your organization should also be working to maintain a well-stocked, distributed, responsive supply chain, which can be invaluable in the face of disaster. In turn, although resources differ across health providers, you can’t put a price on having a team of IT security experts to address data breaches and other risks, and designating a chain of command to respond in the worst cases.

Yet all of these solutions require frequent rehearsal and management. One priority post-COVID will be ensuring that your organization is always ready to respond to the next catastrophe, because if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that you never know when catastrophe will strike.

A Digital Frontier

It’s not enough to consolidate and evolve your systems for a changed world. Your systems’ newfound digital capabilities need to be at the top of your to-do list—for CISOs, you should be considering how to establish effective clinical informatics governance to better facilitate virtual care and CTC.

One simple solution is to make sure your clinical informatics leadership can partner with your IT security team to bolster enterprise and information architecture, cybersecurity, and clinical system integration. It remains absolutely critical for your digitization to incorporate compliance from the get-go. Fortunately, in the era of innovation, the machines can do some of the work for you… and we’ll do the rest.

BAI Security’s HIPAA Risk Assessment is here to support you in protecting patient data, your critical functions, and community confidence in your organization—all while ensuring regulatory compliance. With a focus on PHI protection, an exhaustive evaluation and a thorough breakdown of risk mitigation, your HIPAA audit has never been easier, more comprehensive, or more secure.

For an in-depth audit and practical recommendations on a fast track to compliance, contact us today.