Another way to lift interoperability barriers is to use open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Healthcare APIs let hospitals easily connect and engage with patients and insurance companies through web, mobile, and social apps. For example, CommonWell Health Alliance is among the active users of RESTful FHIR APIs.
Data protection: Bridging security gaps
Data security has always been a critical issue in healthcare. And the importance of safeguarding health information only increases in a fully interoperable digital health environment.
So that physicians can get a better picture of a patient’s conditions, clinical and patient apps will need to exchange PHI with one or multiple EHRs. For this, both a mHealth solution and an EHR system should be HIPAA-compliant, which implies that administrative, physical, and technical safeguards are in place. Even if an app isn’t subject to the HIPAA Security Rule (check here whether it’s the case), it may need to comply with other privacy and security laws (e.g. FDA regulations).
When physicians bring their own devices to a hospital to handle PHI, the risks of data leaks get higher. To mitigate them, there’s a need for a secure BYOD infrastructure. Don’t know how to do that? HealthIT.gov offers a five-step recipe for success.
Other recommendations for a safer use of mobile phones in clinics include enabling encryption and firewalls, activating and/or disabling remote wiping, and installing regular OS updates.
And last but not least: hospitals should have an effective training strategy to raise the awareness and understanding of cyber risks among their employees. Care providers can take St. Luke’s University Health Network as an example. They have successfully implemented an employee training program that consisted of quarterly scenario-based presentations on the protection against phishing, malware, and suspicious URLs.
Diving into mHealth specifics is impossible without understanding and addressing its major challenges, which are poor system interoperability and gaps in data protection.
However, these challenges aren’t insurmountable. If software vendors follow relevant guidelines proposed by policymakers, fully interoperable and secure mHealth apps won’t be long in coming.
In turn — with these solutions in place — care providers, will reap substantial benefits, including better operations, care, and patient engagement.