HIMSS 2017: Security, cloud and the future of healthcare
With 45,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors assembled at the country’s leading healthcare conference, HIMSS 2017 bustled with the latest and greatest in health IT innovations. While sifting through the hum of thousands of conversations could be challenging, the discussions spurred from so many key influencers coming together to discuss their visions for the future was enlightening. After three days of mingling with some of the brightest minds in healthcare and IT, attendees came away with two major themes emerging above the noise: security and the cloud.
As Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, reflected in her keynote, the U.S. finds itself on the precipice of transformation and change in 2017 as the country transitions into a new White House administration. This transformation, paired with advances in health IT, are resulting in a year of tremendous possibility and opportunity for accelerating the quality of care — particularly within the scope of security and cloud technologies for healthcare.
IoT cybersecurity: Friend or foe?
Although recent advancements in technology have increased the work efficiency for medical professionals and, consequently, improved care for patients, there is a fear that private health information (PHI) security may be compromised. This new technology coming into play weighs heavily on the minds of many in the industry. With an increasingly interconnected world, the topic of cybersecurity in healthcare has, perhaps, never buzzed quite as loudly as it did at HIMSS 2017.
IoT devices are increasingly being used in healthcare facilities across the nation to improve and monitor patient care through the connection of sensors and wearable devices, as was clear by the overwhelming amount of IoT displays throughout the HIMSS exhibit halls. However, the security of these “everyday devices” being used for medical purposes has come into question. How can healthcare organizations ensure that the use of such connected devices does not pose a new type of security threat?
As recently affirmed by Damon Hopley, an IoT security product manager at Verizon, “Effective IoT security practices start with one critical element: credentials. Whether in a hospital or pharmaceutical company, these measures protect sensitive patient data and other information exchanged among a wide range of devices — from smartphones to tablets or any other device that leverages standard digital certificate protocols.”
Credentials — such as HIPAA compliance for the vendors of health IT solutions — constitute a critical step in ensuring the security of healthcare’s future. As more IoT devices become compliant, the risk of using the new technology in the clinic is minimized — allowing the benefits of telehealth to outweigh the interconnected concerns.
From interoperability to blockchain: New opportunities for the cloud
As healthcare IT professionals gathered at HIMSS this year, the cloud dominated many conversations. Although cloud computing in healthcare has been a topic of discussion for a few years now, just as interoperability and blockchain have become more prominent in the effort to streamline electronic health records (EHR) and improve quality of care, the cloud has never been more vital than it is today.
With healthcare interoperability in the cloud, facilities can quickly share information about a patient’s health history when it’s needed most, such as when transitioning care from one clinic to another or if an emergency occurs away from a patient’s traditional point of care. And this interoperability isn’t a far-off dream either, although EHR deployments are still rising.
As of 2015, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT reported that 52 percent of hospitals could electronically find patient health information, 85 percent could send patient summary of care records, 65 percent could receive such records and 38 percent could use or integrate those records into their own EHRs without manual entry. Even more promising is the statistic that 26 percent of hospitals in the U.S. were already conducting all four of these domains of interoperability two years ago; one can only imagine how those numbers will look by the end of 2017.
Cloud technology is also witnessing its share of advancements to improve interoperability with blockchain technology, which is rapidly gaining adoption in healthcare. Paul Snow, founder of a Texas-based blockchain vendor called Factom, recently highlighted that blockchain can enable the “long-sought longitudinal health record” for the first time; containing “every episode of care” from childhood to old age in every location that healthcare was delivered. Because of this and many other factors, blockchain capability could radically reduce medical errors, improve quality of care and empower patients to maintain control over their own health records.
Healthcare innovation of the future
The other inescapable murmur in the HIMSS crowd focused on healthcare applications of artificial intelligence (AI). Many have heard the buzz about its future potential, but HIMSS 2017 brought the real-world applications for today to the front page. With the premiere of IBM’s Watson Health, the mood for the three days of conversations teetered on the brink of excitement, innovation and the future. It is quite clear that innovative technologies such as AI will influence the coming years of healthcare and will specifically drive the improvements of population care management and care coordination.
According to a recent Research and Markets report, the population health management technology market is predicted to reach $42.54 billion by 2021. However, if this important aspect of care is to be positioned for improvement alongside its growing technology counterpart, it is crucial that providers and healthcare professionals continue to adopt new care strategies that work in harmony with the evolving technological landscape. To ignore these developments in the way physicians operate on an everyday level would be to work against the endless possibilities that the past 10 years of telehealth innovation have uncovered.
Improving population health is also deeply rooted in effective patient care coordination. Since healthcare interoperability is the next step to meaningful population health management, providers equipped with the right tools can more successfully coordinate treatment between facilities — ultimately improving the care of the patient — when the appropriate information is available to every member of the teams involved.
With the healthcare industry and its related technologies evolving at such rapid speeds, security, cloud and AI technologies as well as their applications will remain highly relevant as the industry continues to make every advancement toward improving the lives of all patients worldwide.
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