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Is Your Healthcare IT Environment Ready for the Affordable Care Act?

8 Oct 2014

For the last several years, the media has been inundated with people discussing the Affordable Care Act. While every aspect of the ACA has been debated, most have overlooked the impact that the ACA will have on the Health Information Technology industry. Healthcare IT departments play an important role in providing quality care — from connecting doctors to electronic imaging to providing critical bandwidth for medical records. With the ACA, the demand and pressure on IT departments will only increase. If your IT department cannot provide the infrastructure and systems necessary to support the ACA’s reporting and compliance requirements, then your facility will incur penalties. The good news is that, with planning and preparation, your department can seamlessly adjust to the new requirements.

Healthcare IT departments should consider the following when preparing for the Affordable Care Act:

  • Can your network handle the increased traffic?

New reporting standards means the demands on your network will increase. Since network downtime results in decreased patient care as well as lost revenue, make sure that your network has the required bandwidth now — before the ACA implementation is in full swing. Estimate your increased network traffic expected by the ACA, and conduct network tests to determine your networks ability to handle it. Make any modifications or upgrades to ensure that your network will continue to provide the needed access and connectivity.

  • Do you have the infrastructure to participate in Accountable Care Organizations?

To facilitate collaboration, many healthcare practitioners will be participating in Accountable Care Organizations as a result of the ACA. Since many of your medical personnel will be working with practitioners in other facilities, you’ll need to make sure your facility has the ability to share information with the rest of the team while still maintaining the patient privacy standards required by law.

  • Does your facility have timekeeping systems and processes in place?

Most healthcare facilities are focusing on the impact that the ACA has on their patients. But it’s important to remember that you are also an employer and, like all employers, you must carefully track employee hours to identify those working 30 or more. Make sure that your time reporting software accurately alerts HR when an employee changes from part- to full-time, as well as when a part-time employee works over 30 hours. If your hospital does not have the software with these capabilities, begin investing in workforce management software that will meet your needs as well as comply with the ACA.

  • Do you have effective data security protocols to handle the increased online information?

Data breaches have been making the headlines in recent news cycles. But with the amount of data increasing under ACA, the stakes are much higher since a data breach of personal data can lead to grave consequences for patients if their employers or others find out sensitive medical information. The rise of mobile devices and increased remote access through cloud can also increase risk. Evaluate the new processes you are implementing to meet ACA requirements, and do a security analysis of any potential weakness areas. Many facilities encrypt mobile data to reduce breaches, and conduct regular audits to pinpoint any authorized access. In addition to your IT solutions for this issue, it’s essential that you conduct training for your users on new security protocols mandated by the ACA. Even if you have the most advanced systems and software in place, it will only be as compliant and effective as the personnel who use it.

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