March 13, 2020
IT and Continuity of Healthcare Operations
Technology support is crucial to keeping hospitals effective.
Continuity of hospital operations is important during this time. IT leaders need to focus on how operations will change. First, IT needs to treat this as a downtime. To manage the upcoming change, internal IT communications need to be clear, concise and effective. IT security needs to be in the forefront of all discussions. It is unfortunate but true that cybercriminals will exploit this global crisis.
The following are three of the main areas of change for operations and how they should be addressed.
1. Working from Home Is Essential
Those workers that can work from home should if they are nonessential. Review “work from home” policies and modify them accordingly for the increased work from home staff levels. Empower staff to work from home. Provide training to staff that have not worked from home before. Focus on secure access, data protection and protecting themselves from social attacks.
Categorize the remote users into personas, review their typical business and operational workflows and provide them the proper technology to efficiently continue operations remotely. Be security-minded, endpoint security and two-factor authentication are necessary.
Focus on alert, notification and communication systems to keep all remote personnel in the loop. Consider videoconferencing systems or cloud-based unified communication systems that can easily scale to facilitate remote working. If you already have these systems in place, scale them.
Review existing internet bandwidth, network capacity, licensing and security infrastructure for the increase in remote workers. Scale and modify, accordingly.
Add staff and extend hours at the IT service desk and IT security office to handle the additional workload from creating a larger remote workforce. Remote access requests and credential renewals will grow.
2. Assure Remote Access for Patients
Improve remote access for patients. Providing multiple avenues for patients to interact with care providers is necessary. IT will be key in creating a positive experience while patients interact remotely with caregivers. IT leaders should focus on the following.
- Review the existing application portfolio and ensure all applications that provide interaction with patients are being used effectively. Interaction with patient portals will increase. Remind patients via the hospital web page of all the ways they can remotely interact with caregivers at the hospital.
- Focus on telemedicine. This comes in many flavors. The use of telemedicine carts or video carts will allow physicians to care for patients in multiple facilities. Tele Doc apps will also allow patients to be treated from their homes.
- Get ready for higher volume at the hospital call center. Staff up and provide alternatives for patients to interact with the call center. Review your existing interactive voice response (IVR), and think about having patients send emails, chat sessions or even setting up chatbots. Do all the above since there is still a portion of unconnected patients that will resort to a calling the hospital. This volume is going to increase. Consider adding an additional patient help line to answer any questions and/or concerns. Dedicate a page to your website with this line, information on additional ways to access caregivers remotely and FAQs.
3. IT Is Needed for Quarantine Support
Prepare for patient quarantine areas. It is possible that a patient or patients may need to be quarantined. There is a chance the hospital already has a dedicated area planned for or already set up. The question IT leaders should be thinking about is: Have we provided the applicable technology and network connectivity to that area?
Review quarantine plans with operations. For areas within the four walls of the hospital, verify that the applicable computing and communication devices are in place, have spares available and ready to go in case of failure, and verify if wireless coverage is adequate. If the hospital plans on setting up tents or operations in a parking lot, make sure you have network and power available to the tent. Set up a sub-network in the tent to provide wired and wireless network connectivity and have the applicable computing and communication devices staged and ready to be set up as soon as possible. Finally, have the proper IT staff on hand to perform the work.
Properly preparing for the above, will help hospital operations continue to operate effectively to provide care to their patients.