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Customer Experience and Design

Protecting Personal Health Information in the World of Mobile Healthcare

The push for electronic health records (EHRs) kicked into high gear in 2010 when providers spent a record breaking $88.6 billion on health IT initiatives based in adopting EHRs. While many are cheering on the movement, others are more hesitant as security concerns emerge.

Price Water Cooper claims that the use of EHRs drastically increases the odds of PHI being exposed. This notion is further supported by the HHS Office for Civil Rights database which reveals that there were PHI security breaches every other day for the past year and a half and a recent report claiming that “there may be a direct correlation between increasing levels of adoption of medical informatics systems and breaches in patient health information.” All in all, this makes perfect sense – an increase in EHRs lends itself to an increase in breaches, right? But the real question is – Does it have to be this way?
Recent regulations have specified standards to protect healthcare data during electronic transport, required encryption and breach of notification and defined “meaningful consent”. Despite the concern with protecting PHI, the adoption of mobile technologies, a medium that raises major security concerns, continues to gain momentum.

At the recent American Medical Informatics Association annual meeting, Drs. Henry Feldman, Larry Nathanson and Janet Meyers, R.N. presented “Tablets in Healthcare: Not Just for Pills Anymore”. The presentation highlights how valuable the iPad is to the healthcare industry. The iPad is just one of many mobile devices “transforming” healthcare from both the provider and patient’s perspective. Patients are able to become more involved in their care – which is noted to improve the overall outcome of care, while physicians are able to provide more timely, informed care.

All of this comes at a time when healthcare is experiencing major changes stemming from need to contain costs, improve quality and outcomes and decrease waste. So while some people still question if mobile devices, such as the iPad, which have operating systems which are more secure than a standard PC are secure enough – others are addressing the healthcare challenge and patient demands for involvement with mobile apps and placing security on the back-burner to quality of care. It is an interesting phenomenon that will surely encourage a quick solution.

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