The use of information and telecommunication technology (ICT) is transforming the healthcare industry:
IT allows telemedicine, digital-related services to support clinical health care and even telehealth, care at-a-distance. Computing technology is enabling doctors to connect and communicate through the Web or mobile tools with colleagues and other clinics and reach out to relevant medical specialists, from virtually anywhere, at any time, to assist in diagnosis and treatment of patients. Even examinations through a live IP video conference feed are now possible through real-time telehealth consultation for faster medical care.
In essence, telehealth and telemedicine are promising technologies for improving the overall quality of healthcare in providing a value-added system of care delivery. However, even though digital health may be positively changing the medical industry, there are concerns about the safety of confidential patient information processed digitally. This is true, especially, when handling electronic health records (EHRs) and when managing health-related information across computerized systems.
According to a year-long examination of cybersecurity by The Washington Post, IT security researchers revealed that the healthcare industry is vulnerable to hacking threats and cyber-attacks. The security professionals say that health information privacy (HIP) is at risk and the framework for sharing between doctors and health care providers is a big concern. Cybercriminal are potentially able to exploit patient information and steal their identity to commit identity fraud. Impersonators could even gain medical care services and coverage, see a doctor, get prescription drugs, and file claims under the victim’s health insurance plan.
With digital transformation of healthcare already in full swing, EHRs becoming more used at hospitals and clinics, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act incentive payments going ahead and the launch of the Obamacare insurance website, some people question the integrity of the digital health system where hackers are able to possibly break into and steal information through security data breach flaws.
Encryption and authentication are apt security measures to assure patients that their information and identity will be protected, IT security experts say. Those simple measures are a front line of defense when it comes to security of health and medical data that is transmitted over a network. This is something HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) mandates; encryption must be utilized when medical information is going to be passed over an open network such as the Internet, and it comes optional when dealing with a closed network.
It is important to know that health care providers are responsible for safeguarding protected health information under HITECH and HIPAA regulations.
“Some hospitals and clinics take proactive measures to reduce the risks regarding data privacy; they have strengthened information privacy by implementing a shred-all policy and safeguarded patient information by means of encryption and authentication; yet, not all health-care organizations are doing enough to provide effectiveness of their data protection efforts”, conveys security experts from Shred-it
At a minimum, the following information security tips should be followed by healthcare professionals:
- Healthcare organizations have to take security very seriously. Data security awareness training in a healthcare environment is paramount to teach people about threats and attacks.
- Health care facilities may want to consider carrying out risk assessments in identifying loopholes in their health delivery systems and have safeguards in place, as needed.
- Health care providers collecting, sharing and/or storing patient information on PCs or mobile devices ought to protect it according to established security policies and compliance.
- Patients, physicians and insurers need to be wary of online scammers who may solicit information from patients through digital means to commit identity theft.
Digital health futurists, like Fard Johnmarare, are optimistic that telehealth and telemedicine will change health-care delivery for the better; the goal is to expand and improve upon the services already offered at medical facilities to care for patients even when they cannot be seen face to face, and to serve those residing in rural and medically underserved areas and populations.
As for security defense measures, essential servces like document shredding Toronto are needed to protect sensitive data from being compromised. They’ll be beneficial for the safety and efficiency of these new health delivery systems, which are so vital for the future of Healthcare IT.