Believe it or not, 2018 is quickly coming to a close. When reflecting on this past year, your attention likely turns to the idea of value-based care, followed by a barrage of headlines about how hospitals and healthcare facilities must meet shifting regulatory requirements, invest in state-of-the-art technology and deliver smarter, more effective care—all while turning a profit.
While disruption defined much of 2018, so did a handful of other significant moments.
Four Crucial Topics Among Healthcare Leaders in 2019
- Cybersecurity: Hospitals are targeted by ransomware attacks more often than any other type of business, with as much as 88 percent of ransomware-specific attacks directed at hospitals. Though this was also true in 2017, hospital systems in 2018 felt the sting from healthcare data breaches more profoundly. For instance, between April and June 2018 alone, the Protenus Breach Barometer reported that more than 3.14 million healthcare records were exposed by data breaches at just 142 hospitals. In July of 2018, it was reported that the biggest year-to-date health data breach occurred when up to 1.4 million patient records may have been breached in a phishing attack against UnityPoint Health. These major attacks help underscore the importance of proactive cybersecurity measures, techniques, and training, especially when serious repercussions may include operational expenses, financial and legal fallout, damage to hospital reputation, and patient attrition.
- Natural disaster recovery: 2017 was a reality check for many healthcare systems when it was named the most expensive year on record for disasters in the United States, with the cumulative damage of weather and climate disasters totaling at least $306 billion in damage. In Texas alone, 92 hospitals reported around $460 million in losses following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. However, 2018 could prove worse. So far this year, the U.S. has been hit by 12 different billion-dollar weather disasters, Hurricane Michael being the most recent disaster. With so much at stake, effective disaster recovery planning for hospitals and healthcare organizations is critical to protecting vulnerable facilities from major financial and operational risks. In the coming year, it is expected that hospital leaders will continue to prioritize disaster preparedness by simplifying internal IT complexity and tailoring customizable solutions to fortify resilience and expedite the recovery process.
- Rural healthcare: It’s no secret that hundreds of rural healthcare facilities across the country have struggled to remain operational, especially as reimbursement challenges and a decline in patient volume remain consistent hurdles. To date, 90 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, with the most closures located in Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia. Even more unsettling, a September report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the 64 rural hospitals that closed between 2013 and 2017 totaled more than twice as many closures than the previous five-year period. As the number of vulnerable rural hospitals grows, healthcare leaders and government officials must work together and discuss tactics in an effort to ensure survival. Specific strategies to strengthen and sustain America’s rural hospitals may include reducing the total cost of ownership, preventing patient leakage, and harnessing data to improve quality of care and patient safety.
- Patient engagement: Another topic that will be on the forefront of overarching conversations on long-term strategic planning will be around the question of patient engagement. A 2017 report from Deloitte found that the top priority among consumers was “the personalization of care.” In order to meet the evolving needs of patients and better engage with consumers, hospital leaders are expected to continue to try innovative patient engagement techniques, such as consumer apps and patient portals. It’s also likely that healthcare systems will look to other industries (think financial services, consumer products, or hospitality services) for cues on cultivating a customer-centered relationship.
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