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“ … Trust typically is learned gradually, but can be destroyed in an instant by misfortune or  mistake.” --Sviataslov Braynov, 2002

Prior to HIMSS12, I wrote that I would be focusing my attention on vendors that were displaying new business intelligence (BI) systems that help providers align their administrative and clinical data management systems. However, before I even touched down in Las Vegas, a more compelling imperative emerged: the need for trust between partners in information management and exchange.

Health care is undergoing rapid change now, with new payment models, new digital records systems, and new levels of collaboration and interaction between providers, payers, patients, physicians and all other clinical professionals.  The next couple of years are sure to be chaotic as new ways of managing the business of healthcare are worked out. To minimize some of the stress that accompanies uncertainty, it will be important to establish and maintain trust between the stakeholders.

It's therefore difficult to understand why health care providers take risks with protected health information. Furthermore, why do hospitals allow the transmission of unencrypted PHI via smartphones or laptops? Part of the answer lays in the fact that security practices have not kept pace with the behavior of those who use the information. Physicians like the convenience and more-advanced interfaces of smartphones and will circumvent established procedures if the benefits of doing so far outweigh the cost and consequences of a possible breach.

Numerous vendor solutions exist in this area and decided to focus on companies that offer solutions for secure messaging. The companies ranged from extensions of the pager communications companies (Amcom and Vocera) to newer companies that have expertise in data security and secure texting (Imprivata and TigerText) to new start-ups like Doximity that are creating secure communities for physicians.  PerfectServe and Voalté exist in this space, too, and I’m sure there are others.  

Each vendor approaches the issue of secure communications within their networks from a different angle, and some only solve one piece of the problem. However, what’s obvious is that these vendors have woken up to the fact that physicians vastly prefer smartphones over pagers. And while physicians were the early-adopters of iPhones and iPads, adoption of smartphones and tablets is rapidly expanding  to a broader base of clinical professionals.

In the current environment where new data exchange relationships are being formed, a hospital risks damaging its reputation because of a security breach, and to quote the same source used in the introduction:  “Once initiated, distrust tends to reinforce itself. In contrast, trust can be destroyed in an instant.”  (Sviataslov Braynov, 2002)

Security solutions are available. There may not be a single solution that closes all security gaps, but considering the importance of trust in the evolving health care ecosystem, it’s a good time for those at risk to ensure that their own systems—and those of their data exchange partners—are secure.

 

 

Janice McCallum is managing director of Health Content Advisors, the healthcare division of the InfoCommerce Group, Inc.

 

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