Patient Safety

Why Healthcare Providers and PSOs Need to Work Together to Improve Patient Safety and Data Breaches

In this guest article, Meghann Chilcott discusses why healthcare providers need to work with PSOs in order to improve patient safety and reduce data breaches

By Meghann Chilcott (Information Technology and Services)

It’s only summer, and it’s already been an awful year for data security in the American healthcare sector. In April, a ransomware attack could have compromised the data of 85,000 patients at three orthopedic hospitals in California. Then, in June, a healthcare billing claims vendor experienced a cyber attack that may have breached the records of 270,000 patients. These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Between 2009 and 2017, 2,181 healthcare data breaches impacted more than 50 percent of the population of the United States.

Now, patient safety organizations (PSOs) are taking matters into their own hands. These groups want healthcare providers to collect, share and store patient data in a safe and responsible way. The result? Fewer data breaches and better patient care. But, as hackers become increasingly savvy, can data-driven healthcare organizations really safeguard patient information? And how can providers use the latest technology to improve their quality of care?

PSOs in a Data-Driven World

Federally-designated PSOs reduce medical errors and improve patient care outcomes. Governed by the Patient Safety Act and the Patient Safety Rule, PSOs encourage healthcare organizations to report information about data security incidents and comply with security regulations like HIPAA technical safeguards.

As the healthcare sector becomes increasingly data-driven, hospitals and medical practices need to work with PSOs in order to safeguard patient information and improve compliance. Otherwise, hackers will continue to access data.

But is anyone listening?

Healthcare data security practices in the U.S. have much room for improvement, to say the least. Just 52 percent of hospitals have a data archiving strategy in place, for example, according to a study by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and data management company Iron Mountain.

So, what can be done about data safety?

Iron Mountain has outlined a series of policies for data management in the healthcare sector. These include cloud storage, computer automation and disaster recovery plans that mitigate data loss.

Using Patient Safety Data to Improve Quality in Healthcare

Patient safety data from PSOs provide healthcare organizations with invaluable insights into the state of data management across the industry as a whole. Healthcare professionals can use the latest statistics to improve patient care and forecast safety trends.

Not all PSOs are the same, though. Healthcare providers need to choose an organization that provides them with in-depth analytics in their chosen field. This will help them identify problems in their patient safety evaluation systems and improve the quality of care they provide to patients.

“Which type of analysis and what services does the PSO offer, and are they valuable to you?” asks the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Can the PSO clearly explain the requirements of the Patient Safety Rule?”

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Reducing Patient Data Risk by Improving Technology Processes

The latest software collects a wide range of clinical analytics — patient satisfaction scores, data security incidents, healthcare management statistics, etc. — and keeps it all in one place, making it much easier to review and analyze data.

One study from the BMJ Publishing Group and The Healthcare Foundation suggests that IT solutions have the potential to enhance patient safety, although healthcare providers need to implement and adopt the software properly. This might take a while: The study reveals that the U.S. has a significantly lower uptake of the latest core technologies — electronic patient records, for example — than other developed countries like the UK and Netherlands.

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Healthcare providers have more data at their fingertips than at any other point in history. All of this data can prove beneficial — it improves patient care and identifies problems in healthcare systems, for example. However, providers need to work with PSOs in order to improve patient safety and reduce data breaches.

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Meghann Chilcott is an accomplished Senior Executive with more than 17 years of success in the healthcare, retail, pharmaceuticals, tech, and insurance industries. Leveraging extensive experience with technology strategy and business planning, Meghann is a valuable asset for companies seeking guidance on a strong network within the health and IT industry, reducing expenses, and resource reallocation. Her broad areas of expertise include budgeting, negotiations, vendor relations, communication, program & project management, emerging technology integration, policy procedure and development, and process improvement.

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