More than 15 percent of computers used in healthcare are running outdated versions of operating systems, according to a 2017 study. This probably isn’t a surprise to you if you work in the industry—you may very well be reading this on an old version of Internet Explorer right now—but you may be surprised at the number of issues outdated systems can pose to your organization. It turns out that neglecting to act is quite risky business. Let’s take a look at three potential risks of lagging behind.
Risk #1: Security Vulnerabilities
When you’re not keeping pace with technology and continuing to run operating systems long after they’re no longer supported, you make yourself more vulnerable to hackers. Major cyberattacks, such as WannaCry, take advantage of outdated technology. Typically, companies are quick to issue patches for security holes and disaster can be avoided. However, hospitals may elect not to patch because not everything they’re running is compatible with the patch, it’s too expensive, or it may temporarily disrupt services. This often proves to be a fatal error, as the consequences of a security breach outweigh the temporary pain and inconvenience of a patch or an upgrade. Additionally, investing in test and redundant systems can help ensure the patch or upgrade is compatible across your enterprise applications before you go live, and that you can quickly revert back should an issue arise.
Risk #2: Upgrade Debt
Slippery slopes are all too real at healthcare organizations: You may think you don’t need this upgrade or that upgrade, but technology moves at an agile pace, and before you know it you’ve accumulated “upgrade debt.” All of your systems are so far behind that the time and money investment to bring everything up to date far exceeds what it would have cost if you had maintained a regular update cadence all along. The key here is to plan ahead far in advance—keep a running log of all your systems, when they were last updated, and when you expect them to require another update. Maintain contact with all of your mission-critical vendors so you’re always in the loop about their product plans and end-of-life maintenance and support schedules. Work into next year’s budget the costs for expected upgrades, and commit to proactively maintaining systems critical to patient care delivery and daily operations.
Risk #3: Lack of Access to New Capabilities
You’re not only opening your organization to security threats and technical debt, but you’re also potentially missing out on good things as well. Developers, like the team at Spok, are constantly creating new features and enhancing existing functionality to deliver a better experience. Without updating your systems across the board, you’re missing out on updated features, and potentially losing the advantage of improved integrations between systems as well. You maximize the potential return on your IT investments by continuing to leverage the latest and greatest software available.
Healthcare may have gotten by with updating major systems every few years in the past, but that time has come and gone. As an industry, we must speed up. We’re doing the same thing alongside you here at Spok: We’re developing, testing, and validating compatibility with technology partners like Red Hat® and Cisco® at a faster pace than we ever have before.
There is tremendous value on staying current with operating systems and databases: You’ll keep organization and patient information safe, maintain parity with current industry standards and trends, and gain access to new capabilities.
Need a health check of your Spok solutions? Contact us to make sure you’re maximizing their potential.