By Blaise Wabo, associate director, A-LIGN.
As the technology industry continues to experience continuous, rapid change and advancements, other industries are faced with the challenge of incorporating these new technologies, creating rules and regulations in order to ensure the safety and privacy of consumers and businesses. In 2020, technology will continue to lead to new developments in the healthcare industry, but will also leave room for new threats. In particular, telehealth will grow in popularity for both doctors and their patients, allowing for streamlined communication, more convenient consultations, an increase in treatment accuracy and the ability for patients to receive healthcare anywhere in the world.
As the health industry normalizes digitizing health data and providing telehealth services, we must also prepare for what lies in the year ahead for healthcare and data privacy – specifically as it relates to a rise in cyber threats, increase in regulations and the adoption of blockchain.
Protecting Privacy in the Wake of Cyber Threats
Today, telehealth is segmented, essentially meaning that “walls” exist in the network that protect data and act as a defense against hackers and cyber criminals. However, in the coming year, many networks will be streamlined and optimized into an end-to-end solution, likely under the umbrella of one vendor and cutting out third party applications. This has the potential to minimize costs, resources and time. However, accelerating digital health convergence in this way will open the door for network security vulnerabilities. Ultimately, this will provide hackers new avenues to access private patient data and find ways around pre-existing cyber defense mechanisms.
This increase in cyber threats due to the implementation of end-to-end solutions is something that the healthcare industry cannot be prepared for without proper regulation and a dedication to provider compliance.
Increasing and Reforming Regulations
As telehealth becomes a normalcy in patient-provider communication in 2020, we will see a rapidly evolving regulatory environment in order to combat the increase in cybersecurity threats and data breaches. This will lead to a need for additional regulatory compliance codes and demand for more security compliance assessments for healthcare providers and organizations engaging with personal health data.
Healthcare organizations can first expect to see a change stemming from additional regulations enforced at a state-level, with the potential for a later federal amendment. For instance, many states may follow California’s lead with its passing of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) – a statewide amendment that addresses the encroachment of personal security caused by increased data collection and usage from the use of cyber communication. CCPA is a good example of how regulations expanding past healthcare and into the general consumer world can work together with existing and amended HIPAA regulations to benefit the field of health data privacy compliance and advance the validity of trust consumers feel in relationships and data sharing with their providers.
These newfound regulations will come with pressure from healthcare organizations that require adjusted compliance assessments. These organizations may ask health industry assessors and auditors to incorporate the legislation and amendments into their audits or certifications to ensure they are trusted through verification.
Adopting Blockchain Security
Blockchain is more than a trendy buzzword. In fact, it continues to grow as a means for securely managing data that moves between patients and doctors in the healthcare industry. Without blockchain, patients and doctors may run the risk of exposing sensitive data when taking advantage of telehealth options, instead of having a face-to-face meeting. The addition of blockchain to the healthcare industry will be accompanied by changes in HIPAA guidelines to ensure healthcare organizations communicate electronically protected health information (ePHI) through regulated channels. The adoption of blockchain will eventually allow for healthcare providers to take advantage of the ability to exchange encrypted information, leading to more secure telehealth options and adding to the personalized patient experience.
Every industry should look for and prepare for the newest technological trends to ensure they stay ahead of the curve and don’t get left behind. This is especially important for industries, like healthcare, that handle sensitive data and are particularly vulnerable cybercrime. By preparing private data for new cyber threats, complying with impending regulation and adopting blockchain, healthcare practices and providers can stay up-to-date to best serve their patients and protect consumers from privacy infringement.