The Impact of Technical Debt on Community Health Centers 


Healthcare models and regulations are evolving rapidly, and along with it, healthcare technology. To stay on top of high-quality care delivery, meet regulatory requirements and effectively manage grants healthcare organizations must weigh how to best adopt and manage their technology systems.  

Community health centers are no exception. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) notes that recent developments in telehealth and other digital health tools equal a chance for these organizations to innovate and rise above other healthcare competitors and provide better to care to the communities they serve. 

When investing in technical infrastructure and systems, the cost of adoption is often a challenge. Careful planning is important to avoid technical debt, which is a hidden cost that can mount when technical systems are built too quickly or involve cutting corners and changing requirements. Although some technical debt is inevitable, kicking the proverbial can down the road in the form of technical debt results in serious consequences for community health centers. 

How Technical Debt Increases Costs technical debt money loss health center

Cutting corners often defers costs to later and can increase costs in the long run. Outdated legacy software can  older infrastructure results in the need for specialized staff that can maintain it, or support contracts to keep it afloat. This swallows dollars that could otherwise be earmarked for proper system implementation. A survey by McKinsey Digital found that 10-20% of new technology budgets ends up going toward technical debt instead. 

Technical Debt Decreases Staff Productivity 

If these stopgaps are not successful, outages and other issues can lead to lost revenue, productivity and poor patient experiences. For example, manual data entry and other time-consuming tasks can slow down efficiency and lead to staff frustration and burnout, not to mention reduced quality of patient care. 

New Features are Delayed by Technical Debt 
The root cause of outages and cumbersome workflows often delays in rolling out new features due to budget constraints caused by technical debt. As patient and staff needs change, community health centers must be poised to meet those needs. It’s inevitable that technical systems will need to be adapted to new healthcare demands and regulatory requirements. 

Technical Debt Reduces Reliability Technical Debt Compliance Health Center

These delays in updating systems, frequent outages, and other problems only hurt a community health center’s reputation, as both patients and staff are affected by unreliable systems. Patient care itself may suffer. Other organizations who are better equipped with more modern systems can gain the upper hand because they are seen as more reliable. 

Reduced Security is an Added Burden 

Security breaches are a serious concern and can tarnish a community health center’s reputation. Problems with software, for example, can create cybersecurity risks and compromise patient data. Lawsuits are an expensive line item on any healthcare organization’s budget, and prospective patients who are aware of these security failures are less likely to opt for care at involved facilities.  

Compliance Violations May Increase healthcare technical debt

Failing to meet regulatory requirements shines an even larger spotlight on community health centers that have security concerns. As all community health centers are acutely aware, fines and penalties in the healthcare industry for failure to comply with requirements to safeguard patient data can be costly— some of the steepest on average of any industry.  

Beyond this, regulations form the foundation of how community health centers deliver care, measure outcomes, and even bill for services. Outdated or subpar technology exposes these organizations to ongoing risk of violating rules related to insurance claims and more. 

Solving Technical Debt Challenges 

These challenges quickly add up to mounting financial losses and are a roadblock to successful care delivery as well as positive patient and staff experiences. Many organizations don’t know where to start to appropriately prioritize addressing your community health center’s technical debt. Hartman’s healthcare IT experts can walk you through managing the intricacies in a strategic and consumable way. Contact us today for a free consultation. 


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