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Can Providers Cope With EMR Security Challenges?

Posted on June 15, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Boy, back in the good old days, protecting patient data was comparatively easy. All you had to do was make sure that nobody got their hands on a patient’s paper chart who shouldn’t be looking at it.

After all, simple stuff like locking file rooms and making sure charts never get left in a public place are pretty easy to understand. Sure, paper records get stolen or rifled through now and then — no system is perfect — but putting processes in place to prevent unauthorized chart access isn’t that complicated.

On the other hand, introducing electronic medical records  — plus e-prescribing, digital sharing of lab results and more — is a completely different kettle of fish.

For one thing, providers must control access to medical information stored in their EMR in a far more sophisticated way than they had with paper charts.  For example, while role-based access to data may not sound too threatening to your average IT boss, it’s not exactly intuitive if you’re not a geek. Figuring out just who should get access to what gets a lot more complicated than when you used to just have to pull and route a chart.

Another issue: few clinicians know much about data security, and it’s not likely that they’re going to suddenly get wildly excited about encryption or VPNs.  Sure, you can warn them that it comes down to whether some random stranger (or even a staff member) will steal their patients’ Social Security numbers or broadcast medical secrets. But it’s just about impossible to explain security issues without wandering into scary jargon that will alienate the heck out of many doctors.

Of course, healthcare organizations can make sure their clinicians are trained to understand the importance of  securing their EMR. And they can even explain why specific types of security measures will limit their HIPAA exposure, the best pitch you can make to non-techies.

Still, the bottom line is that moving from paper to EMRs isn’t just a change-management exercise. It forces clinicians to think about how they use, distribute and share data on a profound level. I hope it does, anyway…cause if providers aren’t ready to think about these issues, things aren’t going to be pretty.

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Posted on I Written By

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Who will be the “Amazon” of the Mobile Health Market?

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There is a great interview on about the future of mobile healthcare that really impressed me and got me thinking about the future of mHealth.  Robert McCray of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance was interviewed following their 6th Annual Convergence Summit in San Diego, and he shared some really interesting thoughts.  The full interview can be found at the link above but these were the main points I found intriguing.

[That] reinforces a strong trend throughout our community, through this sector, that the customer for healthcare is looking for solutions, not just products. Solutions mean you have to pair your IT–your device–with a service.

This statement could easily have been overlooked, but I think it really gets at the heart of why mHealth is going to be so huge.  My parents, and their parents wanted to go to the doctor and see him face to face so that they could get that human interaction.  My generation, on the other hand, is all about getting it done as fast as possible, and wherever is convenient to them at the moment.  They couldn’t care less if they actually see the doctor as long as the problem is taken away.
This doesn’t even just apply to health problems.  My generation grew up with technology and they hunger and thirst for new gadgets like never before.  If something can be automated they buy it in a heartbeat, sometimes whether they need it or not.  As they start to get older and face more health issues they are going to look to technology first to take care of it, because that is where they look for everything else.

Is wireless health, at the end of the day, going to be dominant in the market because of disruption or because the existing institutions embrace it? I think maybe a slight majority of people would say it will occur through disruption.

I think this is the key that is holding mHealth back at this point.  Much of the medical field is still run by older doctors who have not grown up with technology and may not be willing to embrace it.  Not that they are completely against it, but that they don’t realize the powerful potential that it holds.  As more of these legacy leaders leave the industry and are replaced by others who are anxious to see what technology can do I think we will see a huge boom in technological advances.  Much the same way that Amazon and EBAY changed the way we shop for products, which takes us to the last point he made.

I think in five or six years, we’re going to know who they are. And I think those companies probably exist today–at least in somebody’s garage. Even in 2000-01, both [Amazon and eBay], by revenue, were still microscopic compared to a Walmart or a Target, but they were clearly where the momentum was. They changed the rules for traditional retailers and put pressure on them.

To me, useful innovation is innovation that starts with a problem and then assembles the knowledge to solve it. That’s useful innovation.

I’m going to make a prediction that in about two years, there’s going to be a rush of venture capital into this sector because investors are going to realize that it’s about time that somebody’s going to make a lot of money.

If any of you happens to know who the “mHealth Amazon” is please let me know so that I can invest heavily in them.  If you look back over time, whenever there has been a major advance in technology there have always been just a small handful of companies who truly led the way and left everyone else playing catchup.
I found it incredibly interesting that he picked two years as when he feels like the sector is really going to take off.  I have had numerous discussions with my brother, who is the creator of this blog and numerous others associated with healthcare IT, about the exact same topic and he has repeatedly given me that same two year time frame for the market really exploding.  It will be interesting to see just how fast, and how big, it will grow.