This past year, 2017, has been a challenging year for many industries, and healthcare is certainly no exception. Not only are there major challenges connected to an increasingly aging population and outdated healthcare infrastructure, but the industry is also adapting to the policies associated with a new presidential administration. While technology will continue to be a key part of the future of healthcare, one of the biggest changes will be a shift in mindset from mobile technology to mobile patients.
Most patients do not stay with the same insurance provider for their whole lives. They frequently move, and with the option to work on the go, it will be critical for health systems to mobilize patient data with the individual. While health IT will help care for mobile patients, ensuring the technology is secure must also be the top priority.
Meeting Mobile Health Challenges
Without adequate cybersecurity that covers everyone, health systems are left to fend for themselves and figure out the best solution – like the wild west of the digital age. Avoiding the cost of using the latest technology carries with it an unfortunate side effect – the most current security features are not available. For consumers, it is less about a breach that releases blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol data, and more about identity theft via stolen Social Security and driver’s license information.
In the aftermath of attacks like Equifax, major healthcare organizations are realizing the serious risks associated with becoming the next ransomware headline. In addition to taking a reputation hit, they must also rebuild their entire network and disseminate information in a way that meets the consumer’s increased expectations for their data privacy and protection.
The good news is that encryption is increasingly sophisticated. Not only that, but industry professionals are also beginning to understand the critical need to focus on solutions that protect ancillary medical technology – tools that are often overlooked. These include IV pumps, pulse oximeters and any other small devices plugged in and connected to the hospital’s network for medical record data transmission.
‘Route 66’ for Patient Data and Applications vs. Facebook of Healthcare
In addition to data security, solving the data accessibility issue must also be top of mind. Enabled by technology, healthcare is going back into the home, easing patient management and improving engagement for the best possible treatment outcome.
At-home disease management tools allow patients to both quantitatively and qualitatively track their progress. This data is then shared with a case manager who decides whether that patient needs to make an appointment with their doctor. With modern sensor technology, at-home patient monitoring and treatment through consumer health applications allows patients to benchmark their personal progress while maintaining a consistent schedule for a higher quality care experience.
The main issue here is disparate data, and there are challenges regardless of who owns the data. For hospitals, overall efficiency diminishes when each system has their own storage, database and/or download process. It becomes far more difficult for patients to access and transfer their medical records when switching doctors or insurance providers.
Data needs to be available in a connected hub of records in which patients can grant physicians and insurance providers access to their personal health information. This data will either be pulled in using a product that unifies mobile health records – like Route 66 for patient data and applications – or, larger health IT companies will snap up smaller vendors and slowly build a suite of solutions on their way to becoming the Facebook of healthcare.
In 2018 we will have an opportunity to look at mobile healthcare through a new lens. By viewing patients as mobile – rather than the technology itself – we can more effectively address critical data security and accessibility issues. Health IT industry leaders must rise to the challenge with a goal of enabling a secure, mobile mindset that localizes healthcare information to the individual, rather than their geographic location.