We’re well aware of the ways in which technology is changing our lives. Our computers and mobile devices can do things that simply weren’t possible a decade ago, and seemingly everything — from our cars to our kitchen appliances — can connect to the Internet.
But while these are some of the most visible changes that the era of Big Data has brought, they are not necessarily the most consequential ones. Fewer Americans are aware of just how quickly digital technology is changing the health sector. But understanding this shift is crucial to reaping its benefits — and protecting ourselves against its potential security risks.
Health care organizations are banking on mobile medical records
In a recent study, the market research firm Research 2 Guidance found that health care organizations are fueling the market for mobile devices and digital applications. That market is worth about $10 billion now, but will reach $31 billion by 2020. Signs of this growth can be seen in hospitals across the country, if you look for them. An IDC Health Insights report found that almost 70 percent of clinicians use laptops or smartphones to access data.
The benefits of digital technology are clear. Mobile devices and apps make it easier for doctors and nurses to monitor the health data of their patients and access their past records. It keeps them productive and, when used properly, can significantly improve the quality of care. Given that both care providers and the federal government are committed to making the transition to electronic medical records, these benefits will prove to be crucial in the coming years.
However, as more patient data is converted to digital form, it will inevitably expose flaws in the system. While health provider administrators may feel that patient privacy is paramount, the technology they are choosing to adopt could make this a difficult ideal to uphold.
Providers falling behind on record security
“People don’t think of hospital equipment as being a source of security issues, but with many of these devices having mobile capabilities and storing data (part of the health care Internet of Things), the potential for hacking is great,” Ciaran Bradley, chief product officer at mobile network security firm AdaptiveMobile, told CSO Online. “Many of these devices have only the basics in security — such as password protection or firmware that may or may not have regular updates, leaving diagnostic and other data at risk.”
One big criticism of the use of mobile devices and apps in health care is that efforts to improve security are often severely understaffed. As medical device certifications are generally stricter than those of other systems, it can take more time to update apps and devices.
The end result is a persistent vulnerability that has led to an uptick in the number of medical identity theft cases. The Ponemon Institute’s Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Health Care Data estimates that criminals have increased the number of attacks on health care data by 125 percent since 2010.
Patients must be prepared for the possibility of identity theft
Patients should not count on their care providers to make major investments in health record security in the near future. While this would be nice, it is far from a sure thing.
Instead, patients need to take precautionary measures to ensure that they are prepared for the possibility of medical identity theft.
An identity theft protection service, like Identity Guard, can help. By monitoring your credit file, Social Security Numbers and public records, our service can alert you to certain activity that could be indicative of fraud.