Digital Health Security: The Most Important Tradeoff Between Ease and Privacy

December 15, 2016 Guest Contributor

Guest post by Nicole Fisher, Founder & CEO at HHR Strategies, Inc., Forbes Contributor

Wayne Gretzky always said it’s better to look where the puck is going, not where it is now.

The introduction of smart devices and connectivity has made many of life’s activities easier. However, sharing information—even through one device or app—means that many third-party organizations and potential threats have access to information they previously did not. Digital medicine has grown leaps and bounds in the last five years, and the next five are unpredictable. Yet, the one thing we can count on is that as technology moves into the body and brain, the data we collect and share will become more and more valuable, as well as more and more accessible.

This will introduce a whole new assessment of what privacy means, and how to secure the information collected.

The Risks Are High

Security and privacy are a foundational component of digital medicine’s future, and we must begin looking at the wide range of implications that data and technology will have in the health arena. When telecommunications and remote monitoring are pillars of digital medicine’s ease of use and improved patient adherence, we know the trends are here to stay. And, as new technologies emerge, they will certainly be faster, cheaper and better for patients. But they will also be ripe for hacking and disruption as communication channels increase exponentially and storage moves to the cloud.

In addition to individual data collection, we cannot forget that hospitals, clinics, communities and governments collect data about our day-to-day activities through the same devices. Recently, several hospitals across the U.S. were hacked using RansomWare—leading those hospital systems to pay large ransoms to get their own patient data beck.

With sensors, ingestibles, remote monitoring and cell-based data looking like leaders of the pack in the near future, consumers (patients, providers and payers) must be concerned about the amount of information that is at risk. And those recent attacks have proven that our care providers are not prepared.

Partnerships Are Key

Health providers must make data security a top priority, but so too must entrepreneurs in the health space. Digital medicine companies need a business strategy to ensure their innovative ideas will get to market while protecting their users. Because of the ever-changing nature of health technology, working with other industry stakeholders to protect information will have the biggest impact.

Connections and collaboration with various decision makers and investors from the life sciences sector can make all the difference. In January those attending the Digital Medicine Showcase in San Francisco and CES in Las Vegas will get a taste of what those best alliances could look like.

One of those forward-thinking partnerships was announced this week. Qualcomm has linked the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), DHX Group, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to revamp a multi-stakeholder collaborative nonprofit—Xcertia—dedicated to improving the quality, safety, and effectiveness of mobile health apps. Xcertia’s membership and governing board will be open to broad representation from consumers, developers, payers, clinicians, academia and others with an interest in the development of guidelines, best practices and security of mobile health tech.

Solutions Are Limited

At present, health technology is evolving so fast that regulating bodies and practitioners cannot keep up. Further, closed systems means that pharma, med device and research organizations do not share their information in ways that lead to collaborative data protection.

However, as open source technology increases, government agencies require shared information, and new partnership models emerge, the ability for new problems to appear also mean new solutions will arise. One way for protecting telecommunications and data is the emerging 5G—a network system that is much faster, has a higher capacity and much lower latency than existing systems. But again, this is not currently available to all.

Although data glitches, breaches, hacks and loss are nothing new, the potential threats of the coming five years are unparalleled. Greater amounts of information—no matter how convenient—mean that consumers must be acutely aware of the impact that violations could have. As 2017 begins, thought leaders and innovators need to turn their attention to security and privacy in all new ways. And patients need to hold their providers accountable, while simultaneously being proactive in protecting their own information and health.

Digital medicine companies need a business strategy to ensure their innovative ideas will get to market and to work together with other industry stakeholders to make the biggest impact while protecting customers. Make the necessary connections with decision makers, influencers and investors from the life sciences sector by attending Digital Medicine Showcase this January in San Francisco.




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