The benefits of being able to quickly and easily share healthcare data between providers are plentiful.
Not only can it allow more than one provider to more effectively collaborate on a treatment plan, but it has long-term implications, as well. It could help reduce the number of doctor visits that are required, and it could prevent someone from needing to take a trip to the emergency room. It could prevent hospital admission, too.
Yet, at the same time, this convenience comes with a fairly significant risk: that of data security. It is a difficult topic, but it’s also one that needs to be addressed urgently moving forward.
Healthcare & Data Sharing: Breaking Things Down
Possibly the biggest reason why the healthcare industry should embrace more secure data sharing services can be summed up in just a single acronym:
Also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA was designed to create a set of national standards that would safeguard certain health information. It was established in 1996, obviously prior to the widespread popularity of the internet and the adoption of telehealth and related services that would come with it.
Nevertheless, HIPAA is extremely clear about what happens should certain lapses occur within an organization. If patient data is exposed and the violation was found to be willful – meaning that you knew you could have taken steps to protect it and chose not to – penalties can range from between $50,000 to $250,000.
Depending on the context of the situation, civil penalties can start at $100 per violation and can increase to $25,000 should multiple infractions occur. Violations that are found to be criminal in nature can even result in a prison term of up to one year.
But even going beyond these very strong incentives to make sure that private patient information stays that way, there are several other important reasons as well, particularly as they pertain to the direction of the healthcare industry.
Over the next decade, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) will become more prominent in healthcare environments around the world. This is essentially a vast network of devices that are all connected via the internet, creating and sharing information at all times. According to one study, it has the potential to save up to $300 billion on healthcare costs in the United States alone, due to how these devices can be used for preventative care.
This also means that the sheer volume of data that healthcare organizations are responsible for overseeing will increase exponentially.
On the one hand, this is very much a good thing. Thanks to the massive amount of accurate information that will now be available, medical professionals can create more specific care plans for patients, essentially in real-time. They’ll have more data to draw from than ever before, allowing them to quickly make the right decision on a case-by-case basis.
It will make collaboration between patients, medical providers, and healthcare vendors easier, too.
At the same time, the security concern is omnipresent. Remember that any device connected to both A) a hospital network and B) the internet is a potential vulnerability waiting for exploitation by a seasoned hacker. Once you also realize that the number of such devices that make up the Internet of Medical Things is truly enormous, you can begin to get a better sense of why this is all so important.
What is complicating the problem is that there is no single set of standards that all healthcare organizations use equally. In terms of the Industrial Internet of Things, many companies have already seen a great deal of success – and have been able to protect proprietary data – by adopting open standards and creating a framework that all can use. The healthcare industry has, to date, taken no such steps.
In the end, the sharing of health data is important. Even something as seemingly simple as taking data generated by a wearable device like an Apple Watch and making it available to a primary care physician has the potential to save someone’s life in the right situation. But that data must also be protected, which is why the healthcare industry needs secure data sharing and needs it right away.
Your Digital Transformation Partner
To find out more information about just how crucial it is for those in the healthcare industry to adopt more secure data sharing best practices, or to learn more about what the right approach to digital transformation can mean for your organization, contact DMI today. You can also click here to download our new eBook outlining the top technology trends to pay attention to in 2022 and beyond.