From guest blogger, Kay Eron, General Manager Health IT & Medical Devices at Intel
Today, many health care organizations are experimenting with and implementing the art of virtual care technology. Innovation in technology is finally able to address the need to go beyond brick and mortar, and drive “care anywhere” when it’s needed. While technology is enabling providers to drive virtual care initiatives to increase quality of care, provide patients with more access, and improve patient empowerment, there is the question: How secure is the ecosystem in which more and more personal health information is being exposed?
First, let’s look at where we are currently. Health care is one of the most dynamic industries today, thanks to digital technology and industry and government coming together to address some major pain points that existed for many decades. We’re finally at a point where many of the “what if we could” ideas that clinicians and patients had earlier can be realized. For example, many providers are driving initiatives around virtual care, including telehealth and remote patient monitoring from within patients’ homes.
In the future, payers may be able to use HIT and device information to analyze big data and provide the optimal plans for patients in different demographics given the geographic region where they live, family history and lifestyle. Add to this, patients can be empowered with tools, devices and information to proactively manage their own health outside the hospital in a way that really makes sense.
Wearables and mobility
Simple forms of home monitoring have existed for years. However, today there is a market disruption with new form factors of clinical wearables and connectivity solutions that are easier to use and can better transfer and give access to patient data. Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of people’s lives and can serve as a tool for telehealth, as well as a hub for clinical patient information. This makes the implementation of virtual care much easier. Patients now have options to cost-effective solutions to manage their health more proactively.
At the same time, this proliferation of devices and data also increases the risk of data attack. Any point where data is collected, used or stored can be at risk and needs to be secured. For example, if the wearable devices collecting the data are outside the US and that data is being uploaded to the cloud inside the US, then the use of these wearables can represent trans-border data flow. This can be a significant concern, especially for countries or regions with strong data protection laws such as the EU. We all must be diligent on how the data can be captured, transmitted and protected. Intel offers a security solution that integrates with the user experience with fast encryption and cost reduction, and continues to work with customers to solve data privacy and security challenges.
The security challenge
Overall, it’s wonderful to see so many health care institutions driving virtual care. It’s definitely moving outside the traditional venues to more comfortable settings closer to what patients need. However, this also exposes more patient health information outside the hospital walls and outside patients’ homes.>
To address this vulnerability, at Intel, when we design a solution, we build security into our core hardware. This differentiates how the users experience security. To have a great experience, they shouldn’t be subjected to data breaches or other security incidents. Technology needs to be smarter about detecting user context, risks, and guiding the user to safer alternatives. It’s imperative that devices function reliably and be free of malware. We have a focus to drive consistent security performance across the computer continuum of care.
That brings us back to the original question: how secure is the ecosystem? Security is a critical role in providing data that providers, payers and patients can rely on. Reliable security will more readily foster adoption of virtual care. Depending on the types of patient information collected, used, retained or shared, and how it’s maintained, security can be designed to optimally protect privacy. It’s a complex area, but given the value of health data, I’m hopeful that organizations will start to design their virtual care solutions and ecosystem with security as one of the most important pillars.
Find out more information and read the latest blog posts on health IT at the Intel Health and Life Sciences Community.