Technology is pervasive in our personal lives and the business world. We are in the digital age, which Tim Berners-Lee set in motion in 1980 when he worked at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. By December 1990, Berners-Lee had built the necessary equipment for a working Web: the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and the first Web browser known as the WorldWideWeb (WWW). In January 1991, the first transmission was made outside CERN.
Sometimes fiction fascinates more than fact. A short story or novella penned by E.M. Forster (1879-1970) in 1909, titled – The Machine Stops, predicted the technology age. This science-fiction work tells the story of humanity that must live underground because humans lost the ability to survive on the earth’s surface. A global, omnipotent Machine provides their bodily and spiritual needs. It also conveys communication via video conferencing and a type of instant messaging (sound familiar?). This novella is one of a long list of publications that include five novels; his novel, A Passage to India (1924), resulted in a Nobel Prize for Literature nomination.
In general and surgical hospitals, technology has changed how they operate; technology is indispensable to a hospital’s objectives. Health information management links the clinical, operational, and administrative functions. The healthcare system must maintain accurate patient medical records, which ultimately reduces procedural errors, lowers costs, and improves patient care. Students earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health information management, technology, or systems in this endeavor. A career in this field requires all the same skills as health administration: problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, technology, and analytical skills.
Undergraduate degrees highlight the importance of technology; for example, Grand Canyon’s Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration includes a Health Information Technology and Management course. The material covers data management, information systems, and how these relate to patient confidentiality and security.
Purdue University Global also offers a B.S. in Health Care Administration with a class in Information Technology and Systems for Health Care. Students learn about database architecture and design, administrative reports, health security, and technology management.
There are many hats to wear in healthcare administration, particularly in a hospital environment. A large metropolitan general hospital could have over two thousand beds, namely New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Florida Hospital in Orlando. A March 2020 article in U.S. News reported that there were 728,000 medical and surgical beds available in 2018, according to Blavin’s report. Without the burden of COVID-19, there is an average of one out of three beds empty across the nation. These statistics create a multitude of patient records to document. The hospital administrator should be aware of all phases of the hospital’s operation, including the technology.
Poorly managed health information can have life-threatening consequences. It can also pose a legal problem when inadequate medical record-keeping contributes to a patient’s death or severe illness. Archaic paper records are too cumbersome and slow to access. Up to the minute medical information is critical, so hospital administrators need to have the latest software and hardware. Also, cybersecurity is vital to the security of patient information. Lack of security measures can lead to exposure, such as the one at Rush System for Health in January 2019 at their Chicago hospitals and clinics. During that security breach, roughly 45,000 personal information and Social Security numbers were obtained. This event occurred at the A 2017 article in Health IT Security stated that larger facilities and teaching hospitals had a greater risk of a data breach.
There is a marriage of technology and federal policies in hospitals that is incumbent on administrators to address. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996 implemented administrative safeguards for healthcare organizations. Managers need to ensure that hospital staff has the requisite training to handle security issues to mitigate patient medical records’ breaches. Despite the most advanced hospital technology, studies found that human error was the number one cause of data security problems, according to the Baker Hostetler law firm.
The use of technology affects software vendors, medical supplies, consultants, hardware installers, and business associates. All of whom could be a potential threat, which will eventually fall into the administrators’ lap.
Looking at examples of hospital administrator jobs on employment sites, you see many duties dependent on digital technology. For example:
- Allocation of staffing resources, workflow management, and performance monitoring
- Manage and develop budgets
- Create and maintain a high-performance learning environment
- Knowledge of fiscal management
- Keeps current with advances in business methods, technological changes, and economic trends