Thoughts on big threats for hospitals today

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Here are four key thoughts on the biggest threat facing hospitals today.

Clint Matthews. President and CEO of Reading Health System (West Reading, Pa.): The shift to a value-based environment, combined with population health and managing a continuum of care, mandates that we provide the right care, at the right place, at the right time. Our continued investment in the infrastructure to meet this mandate — expanding access to primary and urgent care, investing in a surgical and patient care HealthPlex [a facility for comprehensive surgical and patient care] to accommodate what is projected to be the technology of the future while providing nationally recognized quality care today, expanding access to mental health care — is met with the reality of the challenge of changing behavior. For example, with 130,000 visits last year, Reading Hospital operates the busiest ED in Pennsylvania and one of the busiest single-site EDs in the country in spite of the system's efforts to expand access to primary care through innovative outreach programs like street medicine and a program to have paramedics serve as patient navigators to visit individuals at home, after their discharge, to follow up on their care.

Dave Schuette. Executive Vice President and President of the Enterprise Business Unit of Synchronoss, a managed mobility solutions company (Bridgewater, N.J.): A 2015 study published in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship estimated that 85 percent of healthcare professionals were bringing their own devices to work to utilize the company IT network and software. Clinicians securely access EHRs from bring-your-own devices or hospital-owned devices daily. To offer an example, a doctor with her own smartphone may discuss patient information with a colleague at one moment and check a personal email the next. It doesn't matter if we're referring to a 1,000-bed hospital or a single practitioner's office, the parameters for BYOD are the same. No matter who owns the device, the hospital or practice is responsible for the data on it and how it's used. If there's a liability, the hospital or practice is unfortunately accountable.

The financial ramifications alone give hospital executives pause given HIPAA regulations place tighter controls over protected health information with a hefty penalty of $1.5 million per data breach per incident. Additionally, data breaches involving lost or stolen smartphones and tablets that contain patient data would require the notification of each patient involved, a costly and labor-intensive task.

David Sholkovitz. Marketing Director of Cambridge Sound Management, developer of the QT Technology for sound masking (Waltham, Mass,): In today's medical offices, protecting patient privacy is critical and is enforced via strict HIPAA privacy regulations. Acoustics and sound privacy are often overlooked in open floor plan waiting areas and patient rooms where sound can easily travel over walls and through glass.

Daniel Cotter. Attorney at Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd (Chicago): Cybersecurity is the biggest threat currently facing hospitals. A review of the "Wall of Shame" provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights shows the increasing number of breaches affecting 500 or more individuals, many of the covered entities being hospitals. The OCR recently disclosed that it would now focus on smaller breaches as well, given the extensive frequency of cybersecurity breaches affecting the healthcare industry.

Are there other threats not listed here? We would love to include them. Please email your thoughts to Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com.

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