The current healthcare system as it operates in the US is hampered by certain obstacles, the most debilitating being that the system itself is disjointed. Caregiving activities and processes vary from organization to organization. The absence of a standardized system makes storing and sharing information across all healthcare organizations inherently flawed, which can have several repercussions for patient care.
Problems in coordination and communication can manifest in a patient’s lack of understanding as to how to make appointments, why they may be referred from primary care to a specialist, or even the necessary steps to take after seeing a specialist. Specialists, on the other hand, may not receive complete information on test results, or why a patient has been referred to them. Primary care physicians may remain unaware of the results and recommendations of their patient’s referral visit. Healthcare staff must conduct their work based on incomplete/unavailable patient data. All these situations reflect an inadequate and deeply flawed caregiving process with poor healthcare outcomes.
Moreover, centralized systems tend to erect even more barriers where lack of coordination and communication is already adversely affecting the caregiving process. Centralized systems particular to one healthcare organization follow their own set of protocols and processes for storing and exchanging information. This information often becomes lost or is inaccessible in its
entirety when a patient seeks care from another healthcare unit for any given reason. In many instances, an organization must either continue the caregiving process from where it was left off based on inadequate information, or restart the entire process and collect information anew. Either method is incredibly time-consuming and costly, and often discourages patients from seeking care from better equipped/experienced specialists. Patients are, in effect, at the mercy of the caregiving organization they first sign up for.
In recent years, the healthcare industry has also been the target of ransomware attacks. Ransomware aims to infect a node or computer, from which it proceeds to spread to and subvert all other linked computers. A centralized healthcare system operates on its own exclusive network where it stores not only patient data but also transaction records as well as other sensitive information regarding the organization. As such, these systems are often without any alternatives or safeguards to ensure that information survives and is recoverable from another source should the primary nodes be compromised. This also raises concerns over patient privacy, which is typically at risk during a ransomware attack. The identifiable data may be snatched, altered or even distributed to other entities.