What do data security and patient engagement have in common?

As the healthcare sector continues to undergo its own IT Revolution, there are clearly many advances and challenges on the horizon.

When people think of data security measures, they tend to think of things that are onerous.  New procedures intended to secure their data, but to make data access and their lives in general more difficult.  Changing password procedures to require complex passwords that must be changed every 30, 45, 60 or 90 days.  Enabling multi-factor authentication methods to access programs.  Restricting access to programs or databases of information until it cannot be accessed without going through a huge hierarchy of approvals.  These are what most people associate with data security.

Patient engagement, on the other hand, is all about giving more people access to more data.  Letting patients get into their medical charts to see changes and potentially spot incorrect information.  Integrating mobile healthcare devices like FitBits, Jaw Bones or even the new Apple Watch into their medical chart so that their physicians can see and monitor activity and health conditions.  This idea of giving more people access to their data and opening up databases to integration with multiple devices seems to contract data security.

So what do data security and patient engagement have in common?  They are the two top priorities of the 15 Most Wired Hospitals according to a recent survey conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and VMware.  The annual survey spotlights trends in the use of information technology within the healthcare industry, including where the biggest and most influential facilities are placing emphasis on their technology dollars.

The results of the survey show that the biggest players are aware of the increasing frequency of data breaches, as well as their data pool’s potential to cause great harm when exploited or used fraudulently.  Those hospitals designated as Most Wired stated that they were using and/or improving intrusion detection systems, increasing their use of drills and other exercises to test policies and responses to data breaches, and had increased board or other governing body oversight of and participation in risk management.  These are all great things to hear, in light of the threats these institutions now face.

The Most Wired hospitals are also shifting focus to improving data sharing among other facilities and working to improve interoperability between their systems, which is a key goal of the increased use of technology in healthcare.  These facilities are also leveraging technology to communicate with patients via patient portals, e-mails or other alerts, as well as providing education and guidance for increased patient self-management of conditions and diseases.  These are squarely in line with improving the quality of patient care, another key goal of recent health care reforms.

As the healthcare sector continues to undergo its own IT Revolution, there are clearly many advances and challenges on the horizon.  It is fascinating to watch the industry respond to these challenges in new and innovative ways to improve healthcare for everyone.

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