With an increased focus on better patient outcomes and reduced costs, the healthcare industry is slowly but surely moving towards digitisation and healthcare organisations today are increasingly using IT for diagnosis and care. The availability and use, of sophisticated diagnosis techniques like teleradiology (where the attending physician remotely interprets the patient condition using biomedical devices), means that paperlessness is becoming the order of the day. The growth of concepts like Telemedicine and Telehealth (including m-health which uses mobile technology for diagnosis and care) indicates that the boundary of the hospital is expanding and the number of points of care treatments are increasing rapidly.
Ironically though, while enabling medical practitioners reach out to their patients in much better ways, technology has made the delivery of healthcare more complex. As patients and doctors become increasingly mobile, healthcare stakeholders need to follow the right process, provide information where and when needed, collate data from and to a variety of devices. All of this increases the likelihood of security breaches and loss of patient health data. Therefore, healthcare organisations today are under intense pressure and scrutiny, for security, privacy and compliance.
According to a Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2009 survey, the top three security concerns for Healthcare CIOs are around the areas of internal breach, regulatory compliance, and inadequate deployment of technology. Solutions that help meet regulatory requirements, mitigate security threats and streamline risks are increasingly being sought after.
Being compliant helps healthcare organisations to reduce patient risk and increases patient confidence. It prevents the resulting damage to the reputation of the organisation and costly fines/ penalties for the organisation and its executives. Compliance prevents loss in revenue and reduces the likelihood of professional damage to healthcare workers. It also enables doctors to easily work with any hospital across any geography using standards based tools for diagnosis and care.
In emergency situations, the use of standards based tools ensures for example, that an ambulance moving on the road easily interfaces with any nearby hospital. Use of standardised tools also provides alarms and warnings like temperature changes within a lab or chemical spills and increases patient safety within a hospital. On a larger scale it helps the government in disease surveillance.
As governments across the world and the general public insist that healthcare organisations take appropriate steps to ensure the proper use, and protection of personal information, leaders in healthcare, business, technology, and information security need to collaborate and adopt standards that help reduce inconsistencies, inefficiencies and high costs associated with the exchange of health information.
The process of gaining compliance calls for the coming together of IT functions is in the areas of data confidentiality, integrity, availability, and auditability. Compliance can be obtained through mandated standards by bodies like the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Helping ensure a regulatory compliance howeverâ€™ poses a great challenge for IT managers. Most regulations do not specifically state what they require from an IT perspective; often different regulations apply to a given organisation making it difficult for IT managers to know what they must do to meet their compliance goals.
Although some vital differences exist among the various regulations, there is a substantial amount of overlap because they all deal with the fundamental issues of data security and privacy. An optimal way to address regulations is to first understand the potential threats and vulnerabilities of the data and network, and then create an effective and secure technology solution built on a well-designed infrastructure. This helps to easily deal with any new regulation that becomes law.
By grouping protection techniques and vulnerabilities into categories as under confidentiality, integrity, availability and auditability, IT managers can create a common baseline for establishing guidelines that help achieve compliance. This process scales with the evolving landscape of new threats and new security measures can be incorporated easily.