Much has changed in the years since HIPAA was first passed into law, not the least of which is the use of mobile technology in healthcare. As a physician, patient, and healthcare technology business leader, I have experienced numerous frustrations and inefficiencies resulting from practices struggling to adhere to the letter of the HIPAA law rather than embracing its spirit.
When it comes to mHealth, most industrialised nations such as the U.S. and Europe have a head start. Money for healthcare technology investments is available, the infrastructure is in place, and most of the population is already engaged in the healthcare system.
As a country of about 52 million people, South Africa shares many characteristics with its larger brethren. There is a mix of public and private healthcare providers and health insurance plans, physician shortages in key areas, and South Africa is beset by many of the same chronic diseases that industrialised countries face (cardiovascular and obesity-related diseases, diabetes, etc.).
The pace of mHealth innovation shows no signs of slowing down. New technologies are not only improving the lives of patients, but also empowering clinicians. However, healthcare is a highly regulated space dominated by major vendors, and it is vital that the regulatory environment keep up with the changing world. Specifically, it’s time for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take a fresh look at the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure it better fits today’s mobile world.
Current HIPAA guidelines – while critical – need to be revised to support smaller companies that can transform the space. Leading app developers across the industry are working together to seek clearer guidelines that will encourage innovation. The App Association recently joined with AirStrip, CareSync, and other mHealth companies urging government representatives to look at this issue so we can better align our practices with theirs and together work towards the goal of improved patient care.
Making quick decisions is important when it comes to cardiology patients – particularly when patient conditions unexpectedly change in the ER or overnight when access to a cardiologist is more limited. Since quality care does not end when the physician leaves the bedside, having the latest and most relevant data easily accessible no matter where the cardiologist is can be critical.
In recent years, cardiologists have relied on faxed or texted pictures of an ECG to help them make decisions, or even other staff members’ verbal descriptions of what they see on the readout. But the quality of this information is inadequate. By the time a fax is sent, it’s outdated. Zooming capabilities for texted images can only do so much. And – though we credit all of our staff for their knowledge – cardiology is a specialty and these doctors may see something on an ECG that might be missed in a verbal update.