Are your hospital legacy IT systems ticking time bombs? Could they drag other systems down in a cascading failure or offer an entry for cyber thieves?
Before you dismiss these nightmare scenarios out of hand, consider the similarities between the healthcare and airline industries. Over the summer, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines were each hit by catastrophic, computer-related outages. Delta’s losses alone topped $100 million, with more than 2,100 flight cancellations—not to mention considerable loss of reputation through angering thousands of paying customers.
Much like the airline industry, healthcare providers have undergone a wave of consolidation. Hospital and health system mergers have become commonplace, as have hospitals purchasing physician groups, post-acute care providers and more, to consolidate patient flow.
Not only do merging healthcare providers likely have different systems that need to be cobbled together, they likely also have homegrown and legacy IT systems they’ve been maintaining well past their useful life.
Here are three reasons why you should be retiring your legacy IT systems--now:
- You’ll Save Money. Healthcare industry experts say that legacy systems consume 75 percent of hospital IT staff time and cost more money in annual licensing costs than hospitals pay in IT staff wages. And let’s not forget backup and storage, power costs, cooling, data center floor space and training expenses. A mid-size hospital can have hundreds of these orphan IT systems. Although it’s often necessary to keep legacy systems running for regulatory reasons or to pull an occasional patient record, they’re little-used, little-loved, but oh-so-costly.
- You’ll Help Protect Your Hospital from a Cyberattack. The intersections between IT systems are often the weak link where hackers can infiltrate. While data security continues to improve, older systems just don’t have the protection that current ones do. Consider these security statistics from the Ponemon Institute
- A data breach costs a healthcare organization more than $2.2 million
- 90 percent of healthcare organizations reported a breach in the past two years, with 45 percent reporting five or more
By consolidating systems, you reduce the number of potential attack points while improving the overall security of your network.
- You’ll Free Up IT Staff. With so much IT staff time spent maintaining outmoded technology, that’s time taken away from value-added services that can help streamline systems and enable better workflows and better care. Don’t forget about disaster recovery and business continuity plans, testing them periodically and participating in proactive data audits that can uncover small issues before they grow and become even more costly.
The emergence of vendor-agnostic, standardized storage platforms is allowing health systems to retire legacy technology with confidence while leveraging patient data in new ways. A May 2016 IDC MarketScape Report relates reveals that managing unstructured content has led to the increased adoption of vendor-neutral archives (VNAs) to manage DICOM files and application-independent clinical archives (AICAs), which the report describes as “a second generation of more patient-centric technology” when compared to its VNA predecessor.
In my next article, I’ll outline the reasons why these next-generation systems could provide the answers to this archiving challenge.
About the author: Michael has worked in the healthcare industry for more than 20 years managing commercial operations for European and US businesses. He holds a BSc in Life Sciences from Aberdeen University and a PhD in Biochemistry from The University of London.