The HIMSS CXO dialogue series is a series of conversations that bring health leaders together to discuss technology and other developments that affect the health world. Recently, Patientory’s CEO was invited to join in on one of those dialogues, located in Sydney, Australia. The main message the company wanted to carry is the idea of networking patients and how this can be used to create a more efficient health system, specifically focused on cybersecurity.
It may appear to go without saying, but if there is no cybersecurity, digital health simply cannot exist. Health data is intended to be viewed by only a select group of people, and if that cannot be guaranteed, nearly everyone will reject their data going digital. This was the principal message of the most recent HIMSS CXO dialogue. Another one of the messages was that of connected care: the idea that real-time, electronic communication between a patient and healthcare provider will improve levels of health care overall. A third message was interoperability: the practice of standardizing healthcare in electronic form to make the transfer of data for care simpler.
HIMSS members share inefficiencies from lack of cybersecurity, including hijacked defibrillators and manipulated CT images. Those sorts of stories would make anyone raise an eyebrow, but even more begin security lapses can occur.Email is one of the most common ways that cybersecurity can lapse. Sensitive data sent from one provider to another can be intercepted and used in a variety of nefarious ways.
Australia has recently set up an online system, My Health Record, that is going to be a crucial part of their digitization of health care, and so security is even more of an issue there. It will make it easier for patients to access all of their health information, but if it’s not encrypted properly anyone else with a computer and some technical knowledge can see it too. Fitness trackers are becoming more common, and doctors can use the data provided, but the security on them is even more lax than email. The worry is real: ransomware recently took down large swaths of the UK’s NHS system.
It’s not the first time that Patientory has been part of a HIMSS discussion; in February they were part of the HIMSS Blockchain Forum. And not surprisingly, blockchain technology was also part of the solutions discussed at the new dialogue.
Blockchain is not a magic solution to the problem of cybersecurity, but it does make several aspects of it easier. Even if someone somehow hijacked a defibrillator, the blockchain system would identify who did it and when – and none of that could be modified or deleted. Since blockchain notes all changes made in the system, a manipulated CT image wouldn’t be the only one: the original image would be preserved somewhere. The chain itself wouldn’t store any data, but the other systems would be able to use their own storage systems that could be monitored with the chain.
Even with the most optimistic predictions for its use, blockchain is just a tool. If the storage systems mentioned above are poorly designed, the chain can say an image was changed or device tampered with, but won’t have a way to get the image from before or trace how someone tampered with it. The summit aimed to make that a little easier by giving some interoperability standards for providers to follow. If those are adhered to, it’ll make the implementation of the tool all that easier.