A Call to Action for Healthcare IT Security

NHIT WeekDuring National Health IT Week, I am encouraged to see such a concerted effort led by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).  Health IT Week has become a rallying point for the healthcare industry to face the challenges of advancing services with expanding technology while maintaining the security and level of service patients require.

Great progress has been made in recent years but new challenges and opportunities arise and there is much more work to be done. HIMSS brought members together in Washington DC yesterday for the 2015 HIMSS Policy Summit, to prepare them to present this year’s priorities to Congress. These legislative and policy priorities include:

  • A call to support robust interoperability and health information exchange and
  • Support for healthcare’s efforts to combat cyber threats
  • Help finding ways to make cybersecurity scalable for use by either small organizations, such as small physician practices or by large groups, such as large healthcare organizations.

Robust Interoperability

Like any other industry, healthcare executives are constantly on the lookout for tools and technology to increase efficiency and to improve the quality of the products or services offered to their clients. The technologies driving progress in Health IT may not be as tantalizing for headlines as the medical cures, treatments, and advances that surround scientific progress. But HIT advances have been no less remarkable in the last several years. The challenge for the industry, administrators, providers, and regulators is to keep up with the rapidly changing technology and security landscape.

But the benefits of technologies and tools and the opportunities to exchange data from one tool to another or one provider to another are undeniable and irresistible. The possibilities of interoperability in various segments of HIT promise better treatment, better outcomes, and better relationships with patients. For all the advances in medical science and technology, these will remain the fundamental measures of success.

HITInteroperability Roadmap, healthit.gov

Cybersecurity for HIT

Our doctor’s office shares our data with the pharmacy down the road, with our insurance provider, and with specialists and other doctors we may see. These connections are convenient and they are also providing a coordination of care that was not possible in the past. This is dramatically improving the level of healthcare provided to patients.

This very personal information is not only extremely helpful to healthcare, it is often a gold mine for cyber criminals. Along with diagnosis, prescription, and other personal information, EHR, electronic health records, often include personal and financial data that can be the catalyst for identity theft, fraud, and targeted criminal threats. Along with the vast benefits that come from the exciting advances in HIT, the healthcare industry bears a significant duty to protect the financial and personal safety of their patients that goes well beyond their health.

With the complex connections necessary today in healthcare, the regulatory expectations placed on providers and ancillary organizations, along with the highly advanced threats facing healthcare data, constant, proactive, dedicated IT Security support is critical.

Scalability for Organizations Large and Small

Valuable healthcare data is hosted on a variety of systems both local and cloud based throughout the healthcare process. The potential weak areas within the systems that manage this information are increasingly dispersed across many channels, providers, and organizations both large and small. Security must be considered at every level of this process.

The providers, organizations, and companies that need to access this shared information can span very small local doctors’ offices to huge corporations and government agencies. A great challenge is in setting scalable standards and guidelines to help all of these entities realistically employ tools, technology and practices that will work for where they are and also protect the data along connections and interactions they have with other organizations.

Call to Action

Organizations and individuals have shared stories and thoughts on social media this week (#NHITweek and #IHeartHIT) and the industry has come together to continue to move the issues and challenges of HIT forward.

You can join HIMSS’ Virtual March on Washington and support these priorities. Learn more about the National Health IT Week Call to Action here.
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