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Security Innovation Needed: Healthcare Industry Needs Security Pros To Help More Safely Share Data and Collaborate

Posted By George Hulme, Thursday, October 25, 2012

We hear about the importance of data sharing and collaboration all of the time. And security professionals are always asked to help move innovative applications and services forward to market quickly. 


Perhaps this is more true in healthcare today than most other industries.  


That’s certainly one of the key themes of president and CEO at Providence Health & Services John F. Koster’s keynote this morning. His talk, The Data-Driven Collaborative Enterprise - A CEO’s Perspective kicked off the discussions here at the ISSA International Conference. 


"We are at an impasse. Without fundamentally changing the way we move healthcare information around, we won’t get to where we need to be when it comes to delivering healthcare in the future,” Koster said.


That was no exaggeration. Koster shared a graphic, largely based on data from the Congressional Budget Office, that shows healthcare costs currently running at about 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product and expected to surpass well over 30 percent starting around the year 2030. Obviously a cost that needs to be controlled if the government is to have any real hope of providing basic medical and Social Security insurances and military funding. "The government is really an insurance company with an army, if you think about it,” Koster joked. 


Providing for the cost-effective and secure access to healthcare data will play a critical part in controlling healthcare costs going forward. 


One of the challenges, here, Koster explained is the sheer acceleration of the amount of healthcare information, which is doubling every year.  And the architecture and delivery of that information isn’t keeping up with its growth. "There’s a mismatch in the delivery method of data and the information architecture to manage and deliver that data,” he said. "The sum total of all healthcare knowledge is supposed to be embedded into the brain of that doctor,” he said. That certainly not being possible, the medical professionals will need to rely on vast, interconnected, and secure knowledge systems.


But the industry, as a whole, isn’t even close yet. Koster highlighted how there is great inefficiency in the healthcare system in not only getting information to patients and those who deliver their care, but also to get new discoveries and potential innovations to market. "It takes 17 years, on average, from the discovery of an innovation to its full use,” Koster said.  


A more secure and resilient healthcare data management and delivery architecture is what is needed, Koster stressed. 


Getting there won’t be easy. First, the use and management of healthcare data needs more standardization and automation. "Data sharing can be done radically different between not only doctors, but also floors in the same hospital,” he said. That’s certainly not scalable, and will need standardization if data sharing is to improve.


Two additional points include automating and embedding healthcare data and intelligence into electronic medical records so that doctors have the most recent, salient information at their fingertips. And, Koster said, this needs to be done at significant scale. 


Finally, use this healthcare data intelligence to help make proactive medical decisions. An example Koster used was that of a hypothetical patient in the hospital undergoing a complex regimen of medications. The use of real-time data based on blood work and other indicators could help to determine if a patient is heading toward too high a toxicity of medications. Or, the use of algorithms that example at EKG readings, the patient’s physiologic data, blood work information to be able to predict potential trouble in the hours or minutes ahead.


The challenge, of course, is doing all of this securely. "That is what we need you [security] professionals to be working on,” Koster told the audience. "We [the industry] can’t do this without you.” 


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