Data insecurity

Security breaches continue to be a significant concern in healthcare – with more than 84 million health records compromised in the first six months of 2015 alone, major data breaches affected nearly a quarter of all Americans.

One of the most prevalent types of attacks is distributed denial of service (DDOS), where hackers flood a server or router with web traffic from an army of commandeered computers. The traffic overwhelms the server or router, causing it to crash.

It’s one thing for a DDOS attack to shut down a retail website, but what if one took down a hospital’s remote neonatal intensive care unit monitoring feed? Or imagine what might happen if an emergency room video conference between a stroke patient’s care team and a neurology specialist was interrupted by an attack?

As we continue to leverage machine-to-machine (M2M) learning – and as applications become more integrated into the delivery of care – thwarting DDOS attacks becomes more mission-critical. Hacking of personal health information to share or use for fraudulent activity, blackmail or phishing schemes is also a big concern. Thanks to the lucrative black-market value of such data, these types of breaches are common and on the rise.

Information security will continue to be a central focus of the industry in the coming year. Protecting confidential information is critical. However, so is maintaining the continuity of care and enabling physicians with the right tools and actionable information. Expect to see CIOs and CISOs thoroughly map out entire risk profiles (and invest in tools from best-of-breed partners) to secure protected health information and communication infrastructure.

Doing more with less

In health IT, cutting costs isn’t what’s driving innovation – healthcare companies have experienced exponential data growth. To ensure data is accessible and actionable (and that critical applications are functioning correctly throughout their organizations), many have invested in more centralized, standardized, and scalable data center connectivity solutions.

The next step is to combine that data with real-time analytics and physician support tools. By 2018, it is estimated that 30% of healthcare systems worldwide will employ real-time cognitive analysis tools to provide personalized care by making use of patient data. This type of augmentation, which International Data Corporation predicts will be used in 80% of interactions with patients, and will improve accessibility and value.

To ensure these sophisticated tools operate optimally, they must have access to the right data and compute cycles and have the right infrastructure in place. Data centers should be standardized, scalable, and geographically located to minimize latency and maximize application performance.

Bright, cloudy future

One of the many transformational shifts in medicine is toward outcome-based compensation. In order to adjust to this new paradigm, healthcare providers need a more cost-effective and ubiquitous way to monitor and empower patients after treatment.

Cloud solutions offer scalable, cost-effective platforms that can help connect disparate tools, systems, and parties to enable virtualized care, M2M learning and big data analytics. The digitization of personal health information, combined with access to compute cycles and highly scalable technology platforms such as cloud, contributes to exciting and limitless innovation and can vastly improve access to care.

Recently, I took my 3-year-old to her pediatrician, only to learn the office was closed. The ER was our only option. It would’ve been far more efficient to have used a smart device plug-in that could scope my child’s ear and then send that diagnosis to an on-call pediatrician who could order a prescription. This is one of many smart devices ready to hit the market that enables patients to do more in the home with their connected devices.

Smartphone and wearable adoption is strong among consumers, and people want to take more active roles in their own healthcare. Thus, look for cloud adoption to take off among providers in 2016 as organizations look to invest in flexible, scalable infrastructure that enables them to empower patients, promote virtualized and connected care, and leverage compute cycles for big data analytics.

While the challenges of ensuring data security are real, the possibilities are limitless for turning health data into personalized, actionable intelligence with cloud computing and mobile technologies. There truly has never been a more exciting time in healthcare, and I look forward to seeing the phenomenal innovations and progress that 2016 will bring.

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