What’s Being Missed in Healthcare IT?

Understatement of the Day: COVID-19 has overwhelmed healthcare.

Turns out that this is a reality regardless of whether your healthcare organization has been hit by an influx of COVID-19 patients or not.  The overwhelming feeling applies regardless of where you work in healthcare as well.  I don’t know of any healthcare department that hasn’t had everything turned upside down due to COVID-19.  Not to mention the wear and tear we’ve all felt in all personal lives.

In most cases, it’s amazing what healthcare organizations have done to deal with the pandemic.  Temporary hospitals literally thrown up over night.  The shift to remote work wherever possible over night.  New protocols created, revised, and then created again.  Bureaucracies that disappeared over night (ok, so there were some good things, but also take a toll).  It’s exhausting just thinking about how much COVID-19 has consumed our mindshare.

As a glass half full kind of person, we’ve no doubt seen some massive benefits to healthcare including:

  • Massive Telehealth Adoption
  • The Opportunity to Create New Digital Front Doors
  • The Benefits of Remote Work Proven Out
  • A Chance to Rethink Important Aspects of Healthcare? (I hope this plays out)

While we can see a number of great things happening and it’s totally understandable that people are overwhelmed, I wondered what’s also being missed since our focus and attention has shifted so much to dealing with COVID-19?

Here’s the start of my list of Health IT areas likely being transgressed:

  • Security and Privacy – We all know how security and privacy takes a lower priority in crisis situation.  That’s true as we’ve rolled out new devices and infrastructure, but also when it comes to constrained budgets.  Plus, nefarious people are using the pandemic as a way to attack healthcare even more.  For example, we’ve seen a lot of malicious emails with viruses, malware, etc exploiting the pandemic to breach healthcare organizations.
  • EHR Updates, Optimizations, and Conversions – While we’ve seen a number of EHR installs/switches continue, those were largely EHR projects that were already well under way.  Those that are just starting the EHR switching or conversion process have likely put this on the back burner and will wait until things settle down.
    Possibly of even more impact is the delayed EHR updates and optimizations that would have been happening.  Rightly so, these people switched their efforts to optimizing the EHR to deal with COVID-19.  That meant that all the other optimizations they would have been doing didn’t happen.  The same is true for EHR upgrades which were likely delayed.
  • ERP Upgrades and Switches – While this one is somewhat similar to EHR updates, we were starting to see more healthcare organizations looking at their outdated ERP software and considering upgrading or switching ERP.  While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the supply chain challenges in healthcare, I think it’s safe to say that many of these ERP upgrades to existing or new software are being put on hold.  Not only is there not the time to spend on these large projects, but also likely not the budget.  They’ll be making do with what they already have for a while to come.
  • Healthcare Analytics – While COVID-19 has caused an explosion of analytics projects related to it, that also has meant that many of the healthcare analytics projects that were being worked on prior to COVID-19 were put on hold.  A good example of this was the Epic Deterioration Index which was originally designed for a different patient set, was shifted to look at COVID-19 patients.  This isn’t a bad thing of course, but it is an example of a previous analytics project being put on hold while we dealt with COVID-19.
  • Device Patches, Upgrades, and Updates – This one is an obvious one.  I heard one hospital ordered 2000 new laptops to roll out to their organization to facilitate telehealth and remote work.  While many device patches and upgrades are automated, if I’m busy rolling out 2000 laptops, some upgrades and updates to devices are going to get left behind.  That’s just a reality.

I’m sure there are other areas I missed but hopefully this gets you started thinking about your organization.  What else are you seeing left behind?  What impact are not accomplishing these various projects going to have on your organization?

As a leader, it’s important to go back and see what’s been missed.  This includes having a fair amount of compassion and understanding with your staff who are likely far behind in a number of areas.  It’s a great time to exercise restraint and be reasonable about what you can and should expect.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort to understand what’s been missed, what’s been added to your to-do list, and prioritize each of those items.

It’s kind of hard to realize that we’re all exhausted personally and professionally and now we have to go back and do all the work we missed doing because we were dealing with the pandemic.  One day at a time we do what we can and little by little, a little become a lot.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.