Opinion

Software asset management can protect medical records

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Jim McCormack


Hospitals and medical facilities have increasingly relied on technology solutions to improve collaboration and reduce operating costs. E-mail and clinical information systems are common examples of technology used in today’s medical facilities. But now, more than ever, it is critical to protect these medical technology assets through electronic filters, firewalls and other software-based solutions.

Medical technology is not always used to the best of its abilities. For example, if different departments purchase and install software themselves, inconsistencies and reduced efficiencies can affect an entire organization. Problems may also arise with paper-based software inventory systems, which can make it difficult to obtain a full inventory of licensing if data are missing.  Now, more than ever, proper software management is crucial for the safety of patients.

With better monitoring, tracking and installation policies, the entire organization can benefit from maximized resources.
Software asset management (SAM) is a strategic business process that provides IT managers a means to be more cost-effective, productive and controlled. SAM is an effective solution that is being utilized for the significant results it produces.

The SAM Process

Implementing a software asset management program entails four primary steps:

1.  Perform a software inventory.  It’s essential to know exactly what software — in which versions — the organization owns and how it is deployed. A software inventory tool can be used to scan the PCs on the network and individual hard drives and combine the information into a master report.
2.  Match software with licenses.  Gather the organization’s licensing documentation and compare the results of the software inventory with the licensing information to find instances in which the organization is under, or over, licensed.
3.  Review policies and procedures.  Centralize software acquisition to reduce costs by purchasing the correct type of licensing and to allocate the software most efficiently. Set policies that designate who can purchase software from which vendors and then track and update the software regularly.
4.  Develop a SAM plan.  Create an ongoing plan to analyze anticipated software needs, keep software and licensing documentation in a safe location, create a software and hardware “map” that indicates what software is deployed on which machines, and develop an inventory schedule to keep software information current.

SAM can protect health-care organizations from paying unnecessary licensing fees and manage software deployment to the right people at the right time. SAM protects records, equipment, networks and patient health, which helps reduce the risk to health-care organizations and can directly impact the hospital’s reputation for more accurate and safer patient care.


Why use SAM in the medical industry?

Handheld devices enable physicians to view lab results, order medications and update records at a patient’s bedside, rather than taking time to find the nearest stationary computer. With these new options, it is vital that the available data are drawing from the most recent clinical information. Software asset management helps to protect against unnecessary expenditures and maintains a stable environment for transitioning paper recordkeeping to electronic medical records. Similarly, with SAM, health-care organizations can ensure each work station is running the same versions of software, which helps to minimize user frustration when new system and application deployments are designed for the more recent computer operating systems.
Hospitals and medical facilities are also finding SAM useful in controlling spending on licensing and policy setting of future software purchases. SAM contributes to health-care organizations’ cost savings; money that is lost on over-purchasing of licenses can be spent instead on patient care.

Jim McCormack is the East Region software asset engagement manager for Microsoft.  His responsibilities include working with businesses in Virginia and its surrounding states.
For further information on SAM, visit www.microsoft.com/resources/sam.


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