For years you’ve heard how technology is becoming a bigger part of the healthcare delivery system and how it can help stabilize costs, provide increased access, and further personalize care delivery. As these innovations have been taking hold it has brought up serious questions about data privacy. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the changes IT has brought to healthcare and what it means for patient data privacy.
Technological Improvements to Healthcare
Over the past few years, technology has brought a number of nice changes to the healthcare industry. Not only has significant IT investment started to update a very antiquated health delivery system, it has brought a number of other changes, including:
- Better (and faster) access to medication – A big part of the medication delivery process is what is called prior authorization. Essentially, patients can’t gain access to their medication without prescription and insurance approval. As digital systems have been deployed, the medication supply chain functions much faster, providing patients with prior authorization to get the meds that their doctor provides without having to wait days (and sometimes longer) for their insurers to act.
- Smarter medical devices – Smart systems such as EMRs provide doctors and patients faster access to health information than ever before. With use of mobile devices and secure cloud environments, healthcare providers are able to offer doctors and other healthcare workers information that may have not been available to them in the past.
- Better foresight – The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all that the next big problem may be just around the corner. Healthcare organizations can now use enhanced databases and other online tools to get ahead of potential outbreaks of contagious diseases faster and with more accuracy.
The Issue with Data Privacy
With all that is good about the use of enhanced information systems, there is one big elephant in the room that is keeping it from being all good news. The more IT is used to disseminate personal health information (PHI), the more it is at risk for cyberattack. This fact has been long considered a sticking point for health providers as a reason not to update their systems, and it is a very legitimate one. Cybercriminals are always on the hunt for an individual’s personal information and nothing is as personal as healthcare information.
To this end, the more healthcare organizations and insurers focus on IT implementation, the more they are going to have to invest in cybersecurity. Otherwise the whole integration is at risk. It would be a shame to have technology aimed at improving the whole health care process be a futile investment if they don’t work to improve the security of their information systems. Currently, there is a push in the U.S. to have the Food and Drug Administration establish clear and concise guidelines that organizations have to meet concerning the cybersecurity of these systems and any endpoints related to them.
Additionally, many systems that use innovative technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence are being developed with the hope that they, too, can help improve the security of PHI and further help these healthcare organizations meet their goals of providing better care and doing what they can to keep costs down.
Have you noticed an increase in technology when you’ve visited the doctors? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and return here frequently as we discuss technology and how it fits into business and society.