A global leader and advisory organization, HIMSS has successfully incorporated information and technology to consistently improvise healthcare. Through our association with HIMSS, we have been exposed to various avenues of healthcare leadership and engaged in building a like-minded community. This community spans over 70,000 members, 600 corporates and 450 organizations.

Being at HIMSS:

Through our association with this community, during our consecutive attendances at the conference, we have participated and viewed several digital innovations that are aimed at raising the quality of healthcare. It is an exclusive opportunity to gain access to the expertise of various specialists in the healthcare and information technology sectors. Through the various arrangements of the conference, our insight has deepened towards leveraging assets, operational excellence and clinic studies. The tandem is further enhanced through the use of key innovations and technologies that automate and expedite healthcare functions. Below is a list of the key takeaways from our attendance at the conference.

Lesson # 1 – Healthcare is Sensitive

Healthcare is a subject that is often considered private and information related to it carries a high amount of sensitivity. This is because every individual considers their healthcare information to be private and expect the caregivers to exercise sensitivity toward the subject. According to a recent report by HIMSS titled, “Patient Portal Identity Proofing and Authentication”, “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has a patient-centric focus that embraces and empowers patients and families to participate in managing their care. To make this process more efficient and secure, people/patients will also need to validate who they are electronically, to gain online access to their protected data and provide informed authorization to share their PHI or to delegate who can view their confidential health information.”

In certain cases, patients prefer to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity involved with the nature of the illness. The same report further states, “In healthcare, if a patient wishes to have anonymity so that their medical records cannot be associated with their true identity except in extraordinary circumstances, they may be assigned a pseudonym28 and a multifactor authentication mechanism to help protect the privacy and confidentiality of their records. This authentication mechanism is identical to that issued to a fully identity proofed patient, so no special provisions need to be made to maintain the anonymity. The difference resides in the limitation that such an authenticated digital identity can only be relied upon by the originating organization, whereas a fully proofed identity could be used across organizations, each of which have carried out the appropriate level of identity proofing and authentication.”

Listed below are the challenges related to healthcare sensitivity:

  1. Cultural education and the sensitivities related to varying cultures are often not attributed among healthcare providers.
  2. Healthcare provisions and caregivers are insensitive to gender considerations.
  3. Frequently, miscommunications and misunderstandings are experienced due to the language barriers involved with cross cultural patients and healthcare providers.
  4. Security of healthcare information is another barrier, wherein caregivers should be cognizant to maintain patient information privacy.

The Way Forward:

  • To refrain from miscommunications, caregivers must adopt culturally and linguistically appropriate service levels that are sensitive toward the gender, religious and cultural specifics of the patient. Each patient should be viewed in a partially individualistic manner and their healthcare provisions provided accordingly. Healthcare providers can take advantage of audio-visual tools and counselling for sensitive cases for more efficient communication.
  • With regard to access to healthcare, the literacy levels of a patient need to be factored in, which will go a long way in avoiding insurance lapses. Many a times, healthcare documents are difficult to understand by patients due to illiteracy, inaccessibility to funds, etc.
  • Gender sensitivities need to be carefully considered and, wherever possible, the gender of the patient and the caregiver should be matched. Healthcare counsellors should come into play for sensitive cases of healthcare services.
  • Innovations and new technologies should be embraced to ensure security of patient health information and offers patients with the privacy level deemed necessary for healthcare.

Lesson # 2 – Cybersecurity Needs to Evolve

During our attendance at HIMSS, we have witnessed immeasurable growth in the development and technological advancements of the healthcare sector. Even with all these advancements, healthcare cybersecurity is gradually improving, but there are still gaps that need to be addressed. According to a report at HIMSS titled, “2017 – A Year in Review of Cybersecurity Developments: Lessons Learned in Healthcare and Beyond”, “It is likely that we will see the rise of offensive cyber maneuvers, including the use of cyber weapons (wiper malware and otherwise), by nation state, non-state, and other actors in 2018 (and beyond). But, one does not need to be a sophisticated cyber-attacker to access and use such technology. Indeed, many of these resources are easy to use and hiding in plain sight.”

Healthcare providers are eager to embrace technological innovations, but they need to be cognizant about the risks involved in the adoption of these technologies. The report further adds, “Just about every organization has a website, and web technology is always changing. But, as we have noted previously in this blog post, website security is not something that everyone has mastered. Thus, while entities may patch their back-office systems and in-house IT infrastructure, their websites (and web technology) may be ignored. Web applications may have significant vulnerabilities such as directory traversals (Vol. 15, item no. 1 in Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigation Information), which may result in unauthorized disclosure of potentially sensitive files. In addition, if you have a back-end database which your web application can query, you need to keep in mind problems such as, but not limited to, SQL injection vulnerabilities (Vol. 15, item no. 2 in Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigation Information).”

Listed below are the challenges related to healthcare cybersecurity:

  1. Sophisticated cyber attackers maneuver new technologies to get into healthcare systems due to their high level of proficiency.
  2. Servers that are dependent on the Internet for accessibility, are prone to attacks that are pervading and lurking on the internet, which is compounded through insecure websites.
  3. As technologies improve and develop, so do the methods and weapons for cyberattacks, which make attacks easier to maneuver and execute.
  4. SMB vulnerabilities are ignored or not addressed, and therefore remote code execution remains at high risk. This will give the attacker privileged access to the system and the information therein.
  5. Susceptibility to a global cyberattack is high and a coordinated attack on the healthcare sector is a real possibility.
  6. There has been a noticeable consistent rise in malware that is targeted toward industrial control systems. This puts the healthcare industry right at the center of the threat.
  7. Cross device connectivity further increases the risk of attacks through higher accessibility for attackers.

The Way Forward:

  • Healthcare providers are gaining increasing awareness of the possibilities of threats and attacks and to combat the same, they are investing in security solutions, training of personnel and testing of technologies.
  • Experts are now suggesting that a complete revamp of internet architecture should be undertaken, to further reduce security threats, along with insistence on patching of systems.
  • Consistent improvements should be made toward information sharing and proactive versus reactive methods of dealing with cyberattacks, including awareness of supply chain disaster possibilities and appropriate response alertness.
  • Adoption of predictive analysis should be made a priority toward the proactive steps taken by caregivers. When selecting a technology vendor, caregivers should carefully undertake their due diligence and examine the track record of their selected vendor.

Lesson # 3 – AI in Healthcare at Nascent Stage

Artificial Intelligence has made its entry into the healthcare sector with a bang. However, it still has a long way to go. With the introduction of Machine Learning (ML), AI is rapidly creating a mark within the industry, but aligning the technologies with the specific requirements of healthcare, caregivers and patients is still in its developmental stage.

The road ahead seems promising. Referring to AI at HIMSS, PeriGen CEO Matthew Sappern says, “”I think it does things that are really imperative that are not necessarily what nurses can do. These tools are not so great where reasoning and empathy are required. You teach them to do something, and they will do it over and over and over again, period. They’re good tools to provide perspective, but it’s all about the provider or nurse who is making sense of that information.”

Further, according to Christina Caraballo, director, Audacious Inquiry; a HIMSS Interoperability and HIE Community member, “AI is game changing as we make healthcare more personalized and accessible. AI processes data and provides actionable insights to better understand and respond to healthcare needs – health-related social needs like transportation and new approaches like virtual visits.”

Related to an event at HIMSS titled, “Machine Learning and AI for Healthcare”, it was said, “Machine learning and artificial Intelligence in healthcare is happening. But this next-generation technology is still very much in its infancy, and with it come big challenges with technology, terminology, and, perhaps most daunting, how to introduce this potential transformative solution into existing healthcare workflows.”

Listed below are the challenges related to AI in healthcare:

  1. The cost involved in deploying and incorporating AI is still quite high. The healthcare industry requires customized innovative systems and the cost involved seems to be a hurdle.
  2. Data is plentifully available in the healthcare industry. However, this data is fragmented and unorganized. AI requires meaningful data to make predictions, but this data needs to be functional and organised first.
  3. The balance between technology and the human touch in healthcare is a tricky one. Most times, the human mind is able to identify patients that can heal themselves without intervention. This is virtually impossible for artificial intelligence to identify.

The Way Forward:

  • AI is posed to completely transform healthcare as we know it. Through the intelligent analytics of data, it has the ability to improvise diagnostics, create swifter systems, and dramatically reduce the burden of mundane tasks for healthcare providers.
  • With the innovative technologies, AI is capable of creating systems that can categorize and intelligently analyse large volumes of data. The ability of the systems to create meaningful intelligence from unorganized data is steadily improving.
  • With the increasing evolution of Machine Learning (ML), the balance between technologies and the human touch of caregivers will be a seamless association, wherein the machine will be able to respond and analyse on the basis of the information and advice of the caregiver.

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