Today, many healthcare organizations are experimenting with and implementing the art of virtual care. Innovation in technology is finally able to address the need to go beyond brick and mortar and drive “care anywhere” when it is 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, therein lies the question: How secure is the ecosystem in which more and more personal health information is being exposed to?
First, let’s look at where we are currently. Healthcare is one of the most exciting industries today, thanks to digital technology and the industry and governments coming together to address some major pain points that existed for many decades. We are finally at a point where many of the “what if we could” ideas that clinicians and patients worldwide had can be realized. For example, many providers are driving initiatives around virtual care, including telehealth, and remote patient monitoring leveraging technology that can reside in patients’ homes.
In the future, payers may be able to use HIT and device information to drive big data and provide the optimal plans for patients in different demographics given the geographic region where they live, family history, and life habits. Last, but not least, patients are empowered with tools, devices, and information to proactively manage their own health the way that really makes sense, outside the hospital.
Wearables and Mobility
Simple forms of home monitoring have existed for years; however, today, there is a big disruption in the market due to new form factors of clinical wearables and connectivity solutions, which are easier to use and have a greater ability to transfer and provide 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, allowing patients to have options to cost-effective solutions and allowing them to manage their health more proactively.
At the same time, this proliferation of devices and data also increases the risk of data attack. Any points the data is collected, used, or stored can be at risk and needs to be secured. If the wearable devices that are collecting the data are outside the U.S. and this data is being uploaded to the cloud inside the U.S., then the use of these wearables can represent trans-border data flow which can be a significant concern, especially for countries with strong data protection laws such as in EU. We need to be more responsible on how the data can be captured, transmitted, and protected. At Intel, we provide security solutions that integrate well into the user experience such as fast encryption and cost reduction. We are working with our customers to develop the most effective solution for data privacy and security.
Overall, it is wonderful to see so many healthcare institutions driving virtual care. Care is definitely moving outside the traditional venues to new more natural settings closer to what patients need. However, this also exposes more patient health information to be outside the hospital walls and outside the walls of patients’ homes.
As such, at Intel, when we design a solution, we enable security in our core HW technology. And this provides differentiation in how the users experience security. To have a great experience, the end user should not be subjected to data breaches or other security incidents, and solutions need to be smarter about detecting user context and risks, and guiding the user to safer alternatives. Devices need to function reliably and be free of malware.
In addition, we are focused on driving consistent security performance across the compute continuum of care.
That brings us back to the original question: How secure is the ecosystem? Security will play a key role in ensuring a safe solution that providers, payers, and patients can all rely on. Security would also be key to enabling faster adoption of virtual care. Depending on the types of patient information collected, used, retained, disclosed, or shared, and how to store/dispose it, security can be designed to optimally protect privacy. It is a complex area to address, but given the value of health data, I am hopeful that organizations will start to design their virtual care solutions and ecosystem with security as one of the key pillars.
What questions do you have?
Kay Eron is General Manager Health IT & Medical Devices at Intel.