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Emerging Trends in Healthcare Technology

Technology has been the driving force over the past decade enabling remarkable innovation and transformation in nearly every healthcare sector. Mobile health (mHealth) is exploding with the use of smartphones, apps and wearable technology and is going to continue to dramatically change the business of healthcare and consumer experience for years to come.

However, despite the great promise of advancing healthcare technology, there is an extreme threat to cybersecurity as hackers are infiltrating healthcare industries and stealing individual’s most personal information to sell on the black market. Consumers are frightened by these data breaches and the healthcare industry needs to make security a top priority and come together to solve this problem.

These rapid advances in mHealth in conjunction with the unrelenting attacks by cyber criminals present a great challenge for healthcare managers and leaders. Healthcare organizations are searching for well educated professionals with leadership and communication skills dedicated to advancing quality care, managing patient safety, mitigating financial and security risk with knowledge about IT and emerging technologies. American University’s online Master’s in Healthcare Management program has been designed to prepare graduates with the tools needed to meet these challenges of today’s healthcare organizations.

Smartphones and Apps

Smartphones have become an indispensable necessity of daily life and may be the most popular mHealth device. While the use of smartphones in healthcare is still in its infancy, the ease of use, mobility, connectivity and accessibility is attractive to providers for managing patients remotely and is empowering consumers to engage in their own healthcare.

Apps are exploding into the mHealth arena and as of September, 2015 165,000 mobile apps were available.1 An example of this technology are diabetic patients using mobile apps to enter their glucose readings, diet and exercise data that is sent remotely to their physician for review and a message is sent back to the patient with feedback.

While smartphones and apps are revolutionizing healthcare technology they also present serious security issues such as weak passwords, use of unsecure Wi-Fi, cloud storage without adequate controls as well as employees and business partners using their own devices. Likewise, there are privacy concerns as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) applies to all mobile devices that receive, transmit or store personal health information (PHI) including photographs and most apps are not compliant.2

Wearable Healthcare Technology

Consumers are eagerly adopting wearable technology such as FitBits to track fitness activities, blood pressure, sleep patterns and calories. Clinical and academic researchers studying diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sleep disorders are using wearables to monitor subjects and collect data.3 In response to the demand for wearables, medical companies are developing new products such as smart contact lenses, smart medical apparel, neurological devices and monitoring skin patches.4

U.S. insurance carrier Aetna announced that beginning fall of 2016 they will be utilizing the Apple Watch with several Apple health apps in an effort to improve the health of employees and members.5 While Aetna’s goal is to promote healthier lifestyles, this initiative is going to produce large quantities of data on these individuals’ daily routines, health, wellness and movement. This healthcare technology innovation has the potential to significantly improve healthcare as well as to provide the data necessary to individualize health insurance premiums based on lifestyle.

Cybersecurity

In a 2015 report cyber criminals executed data security breaches on over 120,000,000 healthcare records accounting for 68.4% of US attacks for the yeaHealthcare has become a hackers’ treasure chest as each chart they secure comes with social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and sensitive health information they can turn into cash.

Likewise, Ransomware is infecting computers when unsuspecting users click on a compromised website, e-mail attachment or pop-up window that then restricts access to files until ransom is paid with a pre-paid card or Bitcoin. Mobile phones are also increasingly being targeted with lock down until payment demands are met.

Healthcare organizations across the spectrum need to make cybersecurity their top priority and invest in upgrading their systems to protect the security and privacy of every healthcare consumer and employee’s personal data. This is going to require policies and procedures that are enforced, tight control over access and employing top notch cybersecurity experts.

The Next Step

These are exciting, changing and challenging times in healthcare with vast opportunities for those who want to manage, lead and improve quality and efficiency of care delivery. If this is your vision for the future, American University has the online Master’s in Healthcare Management program that can make this your reality!

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References

 1Satish Misra, MD, September, 2015, “New report finds more than 165,000 mobile health apps now available, takes close look at characteristics & use” http://www.imedicalapps.com/2015/09/ims-health-apps-report/#. Accessed December 15, 2016
2Stacy Cook of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, June 2014, “How to maintain HIPAA compliance with mobile devices” https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2014/06/27/law-review. Accessed December 15, 2016
3Deepak Prakash, June 2016,”Wearable technology: transforming today’s healthcare” http://www.medicalplasticsnews.com/news/wearable-technology-transforming-today%E2%80%99s-healthcare/. Accessed December 15, 2016
4Mr James Hayward, Dr Guillaume Chansin and Dr Harry Zervos, July, 2016,”Wearable Technology 2016-2026 Markets, players and 10-year forecasts” http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/wearable-technology-2016-2026-000483.asp Accessed December 15, 2016.
5Spencer Nam, October, 2016,”Could Apple Watch be the key to lowering health insurance premiums?” http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blog/apple-watch-key-lowering-health-insurance-premiums/. Accessed December 15, 2016
6Identity Theft Resource Center, January, 2016,”Identity Theft Resource Center Breach Report Hits Near Record High in 2015” http://www.idtheftcenter.org/ITRC-Surveys-Studies/2015databreaches.html. Accessed December 2016

About the Author

Peggy Bird has been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years working in Neonatal Intensive Care, Healthcare Marketing and as a Director of Education. She earned a Bachelors of Health Science in Clinical Management and Leadership and a Masters of Arts in Education and Human Development in Education Technology Leadership from George Washington University (GWU). In addition, she taught as an online Adjunct Assistant Professor at GWU in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Over the past 11 years she has been implementing Electronic Medical Records as well as consulting to organizations across the US and is a Board Certified Nurse Informaticist. In this role she has held positions including Project Manager, Application Coordinator, Principal Trainer, Business Consultant, Regional Clinical Informaticist, and Clinical Nursing Analyst Consultant.

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