The trend of healthcare provision has greatly involved the use of technology these days with the production of health mobile applications, telecommunications, digital databases, and so on. With all these being rapidly churned out, security measures in place are often questionable and the predisposition of a breach in data must be acknowledged.

Everyone must take responsibility to protect privacy and confidentiality

From application developers to hospitals advocating for this new technology, everyone has a role to play to uphold the security measures in place. Kurt Hagerman, CISO at cyber security firm Armor Defense said, “There are a million different apps out there – the problem is the low barrier to entry into the healthcare market.”

One major way of preventing a breach in security would be to tackle this issue during the development phase. Developers should be well aware of the healthcare industry’s requirements and policies to appropriately produce a successful type of technology.

Hospitals working together with developers need to clarify up-front and plainly what healthcare protection policies are important in a specific application. “To protect confidentiality, integrity and availability, you have to build strong authentication credentials, you have to encrypt. But these smaller companies just don’t understand it,” said Hagerman.

Beyond education, hospitals must enforce better cyber security, ask app designers the correct questions and demand the kinds of securities that will defend patients’ health information from various attacks, he continued.

Patient preparation essential

The recent National Health IT Summit in Singapore addressed the new technological advances in the country and its impact on the patients. The main goal here is to ensure these innovations offer value to the public by providing better, cheaper and faster service.

The new technological tools could be daunting to the average patient who merely seeks the human touch. Without preparation for the digital era, patients might resist the change. For example, in some ‘smart living’ trials, elderly subjects covered the sensors installed in their homes to monitor their safety because they dreaded having their privacy compromised.

People need to be educated on the need for healthcare evolution. The change is imminent when supply is not able to meet demand. In Singapore, it is estimated that about 30,000 extra healthcare workers will be required between 2015 and 2020 with the rising number of Singaporeans aged 65 and above.

To extend the reach of public healthcare, new technology allows for a reduced dependence on labour. For example, robots and gadgets can assist nurses in the wards perform their tasks faster and more efficiently. Artificial intelligence can bring about cost-effective solutions and telemedicine can offer convenience.

Doctors need to adapt to the change

A global study, Truth About Doctors, has called for a rethink of the doctor-patient communication as they stress on the impact of power and authority redistribution on a doctors’ capability to engage on a personal level with their patients. “Medicine has changed from a caring business to a business of care,” said Hilary Gentile, co-author of the study when she spoke at a recent Asia-Pacific summit.

“We have an opportunity to leverage the vast capabilities of data, technology and artificial intelligence to support doctors in diagnostic efficiency and patient management to win back time. Particularly in Asia, with its well integrated mobile and technology platforms. If we can first master the system, we can empower doctors to reclaim their mastery in patient care,” Gentile continued.

The study points one of the areas for improvement is to humanise technology to advance care. During the course of this study, it was discovered that 53% of 18 to 34-year-olds believed technology would someday eliminate the necessity for doctors. Nadia Tuma-Weldon, a partner in the study, encouraged the integration of technology in many clinical practices.

“We find that the openness to technology as a ‘partner’ is much higher among doctors in China and Japan," she said.

"This isn’t surprising, given the maturity of those markets in adopting new technologies in general. This provides an opportunity to leverage platforms that liberate doctors to do what they do best—listen, empathise, observe and, importantly, be present for their patients."

Other experts present also placed importance on aspects such as empathy as doctors’ greatest resource. This allows them to connect deeply with patients in a way robots will never be able to. MIMS

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