The healthcare industry has been absolutely battered on multiple fronts in the last few months. Hospitals are clearly struggling to battle a raging pandemic, while rushing out mass testing and vaccinations to the public. Behind the scenes, however, another set of struggles unfolds. Healthcare IT teams must increasingly contend with greater data workloads, aging infrastructure and the growing threat of ransomware targeting healthcare.
How healthcare IT professionals manage and mitigate these emerging technical challenges will determine if their hospitals succeed—or buckle—under pressure. Here are several key areas healthcare IT professionals like yourself should consider, if you need to ensure healthcare operations remain efficient and secure for the months ahead.
Make Backup and Recovery a Priority
Hospitals already struggling with an influx of patients and overflowing emergency wards cannot afford the impact of a systems outage, so ensure you’ve a tried-and-tested backup and recovery plan in place. This is especially critical right now, as opportunistic cybercriminals continue to mercilessly attack healthcare institutions. Having a solid backup and recovery procedure in place ensures high availability for critical areas—like the ICU or operating theatre—which in turn saves countless lives.
Having the standby ability to restore mission-critical data from a recent save point means hospitals won’t have to give into extravagant ransomware demands, to retrieve encrypted sensitive patient or medical data. This doesn’t just preserve compliance, but also ensures limited funding and resources can be properly channeled toward fighting the pandemic and preserving lives. So, make it a priority to consistently test your backup and recovery procedures with your team or perform simulations whenever possible.
Increase Investment Into Database Management Tools
Speaking of data, healthcare institutions are currently being inundated with data workloads. Of course, there’s the need to include and track vaccination records on a patient file. The greater challenge, however, comes with the mandate that hospitals have to sync their database with the national vaccination database within a set timeframe, to help with the tracking of nationwide vaccination efforts. This inevitably creates additional data management workloads for healthcare IT teams, especially if both databases exist in vastly different environments.
And that’s before you consider the need to secure sensitive patient data, whether it’s mid-transit or at rest. To ensure compliance with data protection laws like HIPAA, the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) or regional ones like GDPR, most hospitals already control and track who can access sensitive patient or financial data and for what purpose. But as the pandemic persists, a patient, doctors, or even federal organizations may need access to this data for testing or diagnosis—placing greater burden on healthcare IT teams to improve data protection and accessibility procedures.
To provide accessibility, while ensuring data remains secure and workloads manageable, consider employing a database management tool for an additional layer of governance. Solutions like data discovery and classification also help but deploying a database management tool designed to monitor anomalies and maintain detailed access logs is still a critical first step towards secure database management and accessibility.
Kickstart Consolidation in the Coming Months
Hospitals run on sprawling IT infrastructure made up of multiple systems, software, and integrations running concurrently in the background. Healthcare institutions are also notorious for shadow IT, which increases the level of complexity IT teams must deal with, while also making hospitals prime candidates for ransomware attacks. There’s too much surface area, too many hidden vulnerabilities, for healthcare IT teams to monitor and patch at any given time.
This is why consolidation of the entire IT infrastructure is a key endeavor for healthcare IT teams moving forwards. This comes with a slew of risks and challenges. For one, medical staff might point out certain software or platforms are essential to performing their jobs. And in most cases, removing or consolidating a solution carries with it enormous risks, as the action might break integrations or cause dependencies to stop working—resulting in disruption for operations.
To resolve these issues with precision and efficiency, healthcare IT teams must obtain deeper insight into the network. An effective network performance monitor will provide valuable utilization data, allowing IT professionals to identify systems and solutions critical to ongoing operations. They can also more accurately map out their entire IT infrastructure using this data, and identify which areas should be left alone, and which are ripe for optimization and consolidation.
It has been a tough few months, but healthcare IT teams can prepare their hospitals for greater loads and challenges in the coming year, with the right moves now. The suddenness of the pandemic, coupled with the growing threat bad actors present to healthcare systems, means hospitals must waste no time consolidating their infrastructure, establishing backup processes, and securing their databases. Only then can they continue to provide quality care to saves lives, while remaining secure and compliant throughout.