Jul 25 2023

How Application Modernization Helps Healthcare Organizations Protect Patient Data

The process of updating apps gives healthcare organizations a valuable opportunity to enhance their security posture.

As digital transformation initiatives accelerate, healthcare organizations must bring their applications up to date. The limitations of some legacy applications may hold back transformation efforts and hamper improvements to efficiency, productivity and security.

“This slows the pace of innovation because organizations can’t meet the demands of their customers,” says Greg Peters, chief architect for strategic application modernization assessment with CDW. “Organizations need to extract out functionality and modernize those applications.”

Ultimately, digital transformation initiatives can improve the experiences of clinicians, healthcare staff and patients while delivering operational benefits as well.

“Digital transformation is the application of technology to drive better customer experiences and business efficiencies,” says Rolf W. Reitzig, a member of the Digital Velocity Solutions team at CDW. It allows healthcare organizations to respond to what staff and patients want in a more effective manner.

However, as healthcare organizations engage in digital transformation, they must ensure that their data and workloads remain secure from cyberthreats, which are constantly growing in number and sophistication. Application modernization provides several valuable benefits toward achieving this objective. In fact, a 2022 report found that 54 percent of companies started their app modernization initiatives to improve security.

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A DevOps Approach to Improving Security in Healthcare

Many healthcare organizations modernize their legacy applications using a DevOps approach, which brings development and operations teams together to improve the speed, quality and security of app development. DevOps processes can increase velocity, shorten resolution times, improve end-user satisfaction and spur innovation. They can also reduce security risks for organizations that employ them effectively.

A further refinement of DevOps is the DevSecOps approach, in which security plays a foundational role in the development process. DevSecOps automates the security testing of applications as they are undergoing modernization. Any security issues detected in an app must be remediated before it can move to the next stage of development or production.

“When you’re trying to modernize applications, you want to look at every key aspect, and that includes things like which dependencies they use from a security perspective,” Peters says. “If they’re using containers, are they secure?”

Addressing these concerns early in the modernization process helps to ensure security issues are resolved before they can lead to a data breach.

LEARN MORE: How application modernization supports digital transformation.

Important Security Objectives for Application Modernization

Application modernization projects present healthcare organizations with an opportunity to further enhance their security posture by integrating security measures. For example, an application can be incorporated in an organization’s zero-trust security approach. Zero trust requires all users — whether inside or outside an organization’s network — to be authenticated, authorized and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted access to an application. Adoption of zero trust has risen sharply in recent years. A recent report from Okta notes that 58 percent of healthcare organization had implemented a defined zero-trust initiative in 2022, up from 37 percent in 2021. And 37 percent of organizations surveyed at the time planned to have a defined zero trust security initiative in place in the next 12 to 18 months.

Greg Peters
When you’re trying to modernize applications, you want to look at every key aspect, and that includes things like which dependencies they use from a security perspective. If they’re using containers, are they secure?”

Greg Peters Chief Architect for Strategic Application Modernization Assessment, CDW

As organizations engage in app modernization, they also can ensure that their applications work with updated security solutions, including multifactor and passwordless authentication. These help to keep unauthorized users from gaining access to applications and data.

Ultimately, the security benefits of app modernization also can improve the performance and reliability of applications, further helping healthcare organizations achieve the goal of enhancing the experience of clinicians and patients.

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