Guest Column | December 19, 2019

6 Challenges Tech Has Brought To Healthcare (And How To Avoid Them)

By Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes

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Technology has changed the way industry professionals approach the idea of healthcare.

While many of these innovations are positive — facilitating patient care and ensuring traditional treatments are more effective — they also present some unique challenges. Why? Because this technology is something the industry has never seen before.

How can medical professionals recognize and avoid the challenges tech has brought to healthcare?

1. The Challenge Of Interoperability

One of the most significant selling points of electronic health records (EHRs) is they allow practitioners to access relevant patient data instantly. With the adoption of this technology nearly complete — around 95 percent of hospitals use EHRs — interoperability is proving to be a challenge.

To put it bluntly, interoperability is a mess. Patient identification isn't standardized, often making it impossible to match a person with their records. Nearly anyone can input information into a patient's EHR, but withdrawing data isn't always possible.

Avoiding interoperability problems will require industrywide changes. One solution is to implement cloud-based EHRs, which centralize the database while still providing the necessary security.

2. Keeping Up With Old Tech

In spite of all of these technological advances, many facilities still use out-of-date technology. Outdated software creates security holes like the one that allowed hackers to take down the NHS's system in 2017. Windows 7 devices are about to be in the same boat, with the company ending support in 2020.

It's easy to upgrade a computer to the next operating system in line. However, for medical equipment running an older OS, upgrading isn't as straightforward. The best way to avoid problems is to upgrade when possible. The facility's IT department should be fluent in every operating system that's currently in use.

3. User-Unfriendly Interfaces

Medical technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. Yet one thing left in the dark ages is user interface. These devices might change the world, but it won't matter if they're too difficult to use. If there's too much data on the screen at once, or the interface doesn't help users navigate, no one is going to use it.

For medical professionals, there are two possible courses of action to avoid an interface problem. First, engage with manufacturers during the research and development phase and let them know what's needed. Second, take the time to learn how unfriendly interfaces work. It may be challenging, but it could be the lesser of two evils.

4. Exacerbating Malpractice Claims

MedTech has made many practices easier, but it overcomplicates others. One case from 2013 is an ideal example.

A 16-year-old patient was supposed to take a single dose of antibiotics before a routine procedure. A lack of interoperability meant everyone who saw the patient — between admissions and when he complained of anxiety — thought he needed to take another dose. Overall, he took nearly 39 times the recommended dose of this medication.

Problems like the one above cost hospitals lots of money. Health Management Associates, LLC, is another excellent example. They agreed to pay more than $260 million to settle lawsuits surrounding emergency room misconduct. Allegations claim the organization forced physicians to make unnecessary admissions.

While medical malpractice cases involving technology aren't common, representing around 1.3 percent of all claims between 2007 and 2014, they could climb in the coming years. The best way to avoid EHR-related issues is to be diligent when inputting information into a patient's health record.

5. Overcomplicated Asset Tracking

Asset tracking through electronic health records can be both a blessing and a curse. Medical workers can use it to find anything with a barcode or RFID tracking chip. However, physicians often complain that poorly designed systems impede their work, making them a slave to their EHRs.

The problem lies within the electronic health records themselves. Experts designed the system to facilitate billing, not improve patient care, though it should be able to do both. While EHRs aren't avoidable, physicians can reduce the strain and chance of technology burnout by participating in training offered by providers.

6. Overall Implementation

Implementing technology in medicine has a steep learning curve. Those who need it most may not have time to learn how to use it. Without a comprehensive understanding, trying to use medical technology can lead to practitioner error and malpractice.

Hospital administrators, medical professionals and IT teams need to tackle this challenge head-on. Technology is going to change and shape the medical industry for decades to come. Those that don't adapt will be left behind, struggling to keep up with the tidal wave of innovation that's sweeping through healthcare.

How Tech Has Brought New Challenges To Healthcare

What will the future of healthcare challenges look like? How will businesses navigate new hurdles?

Technology has shaped healthcare in irreversible ways. Innovations like electronic health records aid convenience and access to information.

Yet these advantages come with new challenges. Hospitals and other health organizations must continuously check for updates and avoid new types of medical malpractice suits. They'll also need to consider how business practices and patient care intersect.

About The Author

Kayla Matthews is a MedTech writer whose work has appeared on HIT Consultant, Medical Economics and HITECH Answers, among other industry publications. To read more from Kayla, please connect with her on LinkedIn, or visit her personal tech blog at