Some of the biggest technologies leading digital transformation in healthcare are also perceived to hold the greatest risk, according to a new report.
ISACA’s recently released 2018 Digital Transformation Barometer found that some of the most hyped technologies in healthcare – including public cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data – are all noted and rewarding, but also potentially risky.
ISACA member and Tucson Medical Center Director of Infrastructure and Operations, Susan Snedaker, said global respondents were excited about these emerging technologies and their potential to change the future landscape of IT, but with a lot of unknowns surrounding these technologies, their security is a top concern.
“One of the prominent questions in healthcare IT these days is how technology can be used to improve patient outcomes and drive better business results. There are some technologies on the horizon that promise to do just that – but… the security of these technologies is a top concern, as it should be,” Snedaker said.
She said in healthcare, IT professionals will continue the need to balance the evolving needs of the organisation to do more – better, faster, cheaper – with the need to secure the environment and manage risk.
“It’s an incredibly challenging environment in which to operate, but the opportunity to make a difference is what captures our imaginations and drives us to explore these new technologies to benefit patients and organisations.”
Snedaker identified some of the technologies that need to be sized up for digital transformation opportunities in healthcare, and addressed ways that they can be used to successfully transform healthcare organisations and patient outcomes.
According to Snedaker, as medical records and healthcare transactions begin to more often involve multiple parties and numerous transactions, blockchain has the potential to secure these by creating indelible authentications of these transactions, enabling data to be shared quickly, easily and securely.
In May this year, the Federal Government trialled blockchain for researcher access to Australian patient records.
The report identified that when a patient wants to share their data with an outside organisation, a hospital would provide select physicians or clinics with a public and private key to access the patient's health information for a set period of time.
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Snedaker said while My Health Records may have privacy issues with regards to data sharing, it’s important to recognise that it’s not necessarily the technology but the process by which the data is being shared.
“Using blockchain in healthcare poses significant potential benefits for patients and providers alike, and will continue to see investment and innovation in the coming years. The challenge will be coordinating across electronic health record vendors and technology providers to develop a workable process. It’s certainly possible, but significant barriers remain.”
The Internet of Things
IoT has the potential to enable patients to use smartphones to monitor their blood sugar levels, heart rates and rhythms, and more but Snedaker mentioned that there are “very significant security risks” to be addressed in the healthcare arena before the devices are widely deployed.
“Many IoT devices are designed for consumer benefit without a thought for security, and that must be addressed before any IoT solution is implemented in healthcare, where lives are literally at stake,” Snedaker said.
However, when properly implemented and secured, IoT technologies has the ability to bridge the distance between providers and patients and could allow for better, more individualised care.
“A recent study of seniors found that many were comfortable using home monitoring technology in conjunction with telehealth visits with their provider to monitor chronic conditions.
“This approach holds significant potential for lowering the cost of care while extending it to those most in need in a fast, convenient and reliable manner. IoT devices have tremendous potential, so we need makers of these technologies to pay attention to security as these solutions evolve and new ones emerge,” she added.
[Read more: “Lifeblood” of modern healthcare: New report looks at urgent need to overcome barriers to data use | The Australian health system “will fail” if the pace of change is not met: KPMG]
Big data and AI
As for big data and AI, it has been used increasingly in healthcare to improve clinical outcomes.
“Healthcare is gaining ground in the use of big data and, in some organisations, it’s being tied to machine learning and artificial intelligence to further the understanding of the data that organisations are collecting and managing,” Snedaker said.
“When deeper patterns can be discerned and cause/effect relationships can be established, more effective healthcare can be provided, improving patient outcomes.”
According to Snedaker, even though 3D printing is of low security risk, it holds incredibly high potential.
“As 3D printing technology advances, the possibilities for organ replacement, advanced prosthetics, and more is edging closer to reality. Imagine being able to print an organ that is the right size, shape and material to match the recipient so closely that many of today’s transplant risks become obsolete,” she added.