Thousands of health IT professionals gathered this week for the annual Health IT Conference (HIMSS16) in Las Vegas, Nevada. With more than 1,200 vendors and 400+ educational sessions to choose from, attendance tallied a mix of more than 41,000 professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from all over the world.
While there are many exciting highlights from this week, health IT security is at the root of each topic, understandably so, as patient and provider privacy is a primary concern in the healthcare industry. In fact, the conference discussed this topic at length at the Interoperability showcase and Cybersecurity Command Center.
Monday’s symposia acted as a precursor to what most would consider this week’s most popular buzz—interoperability. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s Opening Keynote announcement called for an interoperability pledge to make Electronic Health Records (EHRs) work better for patients and providers. The three core commitments of the Interoperability Pledge include:
- Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community.
- No Blocking/Transparency: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and to not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing).
- Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security.
Burwell also emphasized that “data moving should be private and secure.”
Further, as Carla Smith from the HIMSS management team recalls, the interoperability showcase was a “true demonstration of interoperable Health IT in actions. You can see how your health information moves from solution to solution seamlessly and with appropriate security protocols in place so that the right information is available to the right people at the right time.” Interoperability was one of this week’s hottest topics at HIMSS16.
Cybersecurity Command Center
Mary Griskewicz, director of strategic sales for HIMSS North America, recalls the cybersecurity command center on the HIMSS show floor as the place to learn the importance of “how to prevent hacking in ransomware and [make] sure that the hospital security and all the personal health data stays secure.”
According to the new 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey, 52% of hospitals currently use three or more connected health technologies. Any one failure, as cybersecurity pro Mike Miliard cautions, could open the door for hackers to take out significant portions of a hospital’s medical network. Therefore, it is critical to identify gaps and establish protocol to address vulnerabilities in networked medical devices, which, according to Miliard, requires a closer working relationship between IT and medical personnel.
Miliard also points out that health-data processing is progressively taking place remotely through the use of smartphones and other personal devices. While the progression of connected health technologies allows for patients and providers to connect outside of the examination room, the more devices connected to patient health information also puts patient safety at risk. Making the security of connected devices an essential priority is key in this industry.
To make these technologies secure enough to ensure the privacy of their users, developers must remember the pillars of protection that include: backup, encryption, anti-malware, and strong authentication.
HIMSS 2016 will round up a full week of health IT talk and exciting new announcements with closing keynote speaker, Peyton Manning.