Tech news sites continue to be aflutter with Microsoft’s ceasing support for several versions of its Internet Explorer web browsers. It’s an effort to push users toward its latest iteration—Internet Explorer 11—or to migrate to the new Edge platform. Ending support for older versions of Internet Explorer (such as 8,9, and 10) will result in holdovers to those platforms facing the potential for security vulnerabilities, program instability, and other issues. A software patch coming in the next few weeks will implement a pop-up requesting that users of these versions of Internet Explorer make prompt upgrades to Internet Explorer 11 or Microsoft Edge. It’s something that will persist until the user makes the leap to the most current browsers or makes somewhat complicated registry edits to remove the reminder. This is perfectly reasonable for personal users—since the update might not take very long on their one or two home machines—but what about businesses?
One of the major issues that organizations face is timely adoption of new technology. It’s a costly venture, often requiring excessive amounts of money and time. The company must first purchase enough machines, software licenses, and peripherals to both meet existing needs as well as anticipate future growth. Likewise, each new instance of technology—whether it’s new billing software or simply an upgraded machine—requires a crash course for employees so they may quickly learn its intricacies in a way that won’t affect levels of patient care.
More often than not, the implication of this is that it’s better to hold on to the existing systems; to continue to use software we’re already comfortable with or have established routines using. But when it comes to holding onto antiquated programs and processes, are we creating an entirely new set of troubles for ourselves and our patients?
Security Vulnerabilities Can Affect Billing and Privacy
As healthcare remains many Americans’ largest household expense, hospitals and clinics handle huge amounts of financial information and process credit card payments for hundreds of thousands of Americans each day. If that information goes through Internet browsers without updates to protect sensitive information from outside threats, it’s in danger of being intercepted. The same is true for health records, needing to be securely stored and accessed. Moreover, using unsecured browsers for purposes beyond this—such as when your employees access personal accounts on company time—can create problems, too. It’s a veritable Pandora’s box that can have massive implications for your business and productivity.
What Does This Mean for HIPAA Compliance?
In short: failure to upgrade means your business will no longer be HIPAA compliant. That’s a huge red flag. The security rules around HIPAA demand that applicable safeguards are put in place to protect confidential, protected health information. Continued use of unsupported browsers is definitely contrary to HIPAA regulations. When you’re worrying about issues like these, it’s hard to focus on the things that really matter—achieving that state of business Zen we’re such big fans of.
But we have hundreds of computers to upgrade—and upgrading them all at once would mean too much downtime!
It’s all about planning. Continued process improvement means that you’ve put systems in place to adapt and adjust to new tech upgrades—and can even anticipate some unexpected needs. Staggering your browser upgrades over multiple departments and machines can help, both with time management and training.
Alternately, utilizing virtual machines—where employees log into a central client to manage everything—means that upgrading can be so much easier as multiple machines will emulate one central system. Of course, if that single machine was to go down it could create more issues; generally, looking at each option and seeing which one works best for your business is the obvious solution.
What if this Doesn’t Work?
Many businesses are so entrenched in their IT strategies—or lack thereof—that upgrading in a timely fashion is borderline impossible. Whether it’s because of obsolete operating systems or simply outdated computers, these companies can’t update their processes or software without losing productivity or customers. In those cases, continued process improvement would allow them to adequately plan and make incremental improvements over a longer span of time—eliminating the panic that accompanies sudden changes in technology.
Creating a Strong Strategy for Tech Upgrades is a Key to Success
Ultimately, timely technology upgrades are a key component to any business—whether it’s a hospital, financial institution, or university. But more important than upgrading tech is understanding why it’s important, when you should do it, and who should be included in those decisions. And the best way to learn about that is to create a sustained path of progress that takes into account the possibility for unexpected issues, software that’s no longer supported, and advances in tech.
And how do you create that atmosphere for continuous process improvement? This is achieved by investing in consultants to help navigate that landscape. A good external influence can look at your current healthcare software situation and, in many cases, help optimize your plans for upgrading your technology solutions that are realistic with regard to costs and scope. And, most importantly, enables you to reach that critical point in the process where everything is in a peaceful state of Zen.