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Analyzing the adverse effects of internet downtime in healthcare

Article

In today's healthcare environment any disruption or downtime can have serious implications for both staff and patients alike.

digital eyeball | © Ayesha - stock.adobe.com

© Ayesha - stock.adobe.com

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, multi-location facilities and hospital partnerships are becoming more commonplace. With government initiatives and a move towards value-based medicine, it's essential that these organizations work together in order to reduce costs while providing top-quality care for patients.

At the heart of this collaboration is communication – enabled by fast, reliable internet access. In today's healthcare environment, where nearly every aspect relies on digital technology, any disruption or downtime can have serious implications for both staff and patients alike. That’s why ensuring seamless connectivity between all locations is critical for successful outcomes across the board.

1. Reduced efficiency in the patient care setting

Multi-location healthcare providers rely on seamless communication between locations to remain effective and deliver the best patient care possible. Whether it’s consulting with a physician based at another site or transferring medical records and images from one facility to another, having a steady, reliable internet connection is essential for running an efficient workflow. In the case of any outages, physicians may not be able to connect with each other to discuss treatments or diagnoses quickly, which could have detrimental effects on patients' overall health. Moreover, if access is cut off from patient documents, such as their history of illnesses and conditions, dietary restrictions, and test results, doctors could be left without vital information that could further hinder proper treatment plans.

Furthermore, internet downtime can still affect those who are not physically present at the healthcare center itself. What if someone new tries calling up for an appointment? Without being able to speak directly with someone, they might give up, which affects the entire system. The same is true for existing patients trying to schedule follow-up appointments. The difficulties in making appointments when needed could cause patients to skip important visits, leading to sub-optimal patient outcomes and reduced revenue for the hospital.

2. Compromising PHI and HIPAA compliance

While internet downtime and unusable uptime are harmful to the quality of patient care, they can also compromise the security and privacy of protected health information, undermining HIPAA compliance. Without a reliable internet connection, healthcare providers may resort to manual processes or unsecured networks, increasing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Relying on these backup options increases the risk of unauthorized access or physical loss of patient records.

3. The financial impact

Internet downtime in healthcare facilities can have a significant financial impact. The cost of HIPAA breaches can be substantial, with penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation, depending on the severity. Additionally, considering the estimated cost of downtime at $5,600 per minute, even a brief internet outage can result in substantial financial losses due to disrupted operations, delayed patient care, and potential data breaches. The cumulative effect of these costs can be detrimental to the financial stability of healthcare organizations, underscoring the importance of investing in reliable internet infrastructure and robust contingency plans.

4. The dangers of not being able to access medical records

Patient care relies on up-to-date records, so having reliable access to electronic health/medical records is essential. Providers need to be able to easily update information in real time. That way, if another doctor needs access to that information later, they can easily access it in the medical record.

If they can’t do this, doctors may not have all the information they need to make accurate decisions about patient care. Furthermore, appointment times become longer, and doctors may start to write notes offline, and important information may fall through the cracks because these notes are not always uploaded to the electronic system later.

5. Telehealth and virtual care are becoming more common

Telehealth and virtual care services have increased since 2020. As these offerings are in popular demand, it is imperative clinics and hospitals have connectivity that is capable of supporting those calls.

When the internet at a medical office or clinic falters, these vital video calls are derailed, leaving patients frustrated with backed-up appointments. Patients might not get the care they need, their confidence in the medical system might suffer, and medical centers may have a difficult time booking future appointments.

6. Patients and providers need to communicate

Having a way for providers and patients to communicate quickly is paramount when providing quality treatment recommendations or following up on test results. Any delay in communication could lead to overlooked information and missed treatment windows.

In addition, other work activities like billing, data management, and connecting with pharmacies also rely heavily on consistent uptime, making reliability key across the board.

Overcome network connectivity issues with appropriate help and planning

There are plenty of reasons why network connectivity is so important, and poor network connectivity can have an adverse impact on patient care. All hospital systems and medical organizations need to have complete transparency and visibility regarding their internet connections, and that means being proactive by reaching out to professionals who can lend a helping hand.

Greg Davis is the CEO of Bigleaf Networks, a leading provider of network optimization solutions. Davis has a record of scaling businesses through revenue growth, operations, and strategic acquisitions. He has 25+ years of tech leadership, leading start-ups to $100M+ in annual revenue. He has been on the board of directors for Bigleaf Networks since 2020.

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