Privacy and security are hot topics lately. Just last week, Mark Zuckerberg spent two days testifying on Capitol Hill about Facebook’s handling of user data. And last year brought an astounding revelation about the tenuous nature of our digital security, when more than half of all adults in the United States was affected by the Equifax breach.
While our social media interaction and financial information is certainly sensitive, nowhere is privacy and security more important than in the healthcare industry. Yet there were 477 healthcare breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2017, affecting a total of 5.579 million patient records, according to the Protenus Breach Barometer. Of those incidents, insider wrongdoing accounted for 37 percent of breaches.
I’m willing to bet that many of these incidents were unintentional, the result of hospital staff simply trying to care for their patients as efficiently as possible. According to a 2016 study by Ponemon Institute, 81 percent of physicians use personal devices to access protected health information (PHI) or communicate with patients. It’s understandable, given the time-consuming page-and-call-back loops, legacy phones and overhead paging that are still predominant in many of our hospitals. Everyone carries a smartphone in their pocket, capable of quickly contacting the right person and getting an answer immediately about a patient’s care. When you have outdated and inadequate communication devices to perform your job, it would be difficult to resist the temptation to reach for your personal smartphone to send a text message.
But with fines for HIPAA Security Rule violations ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation, we need to come up with a better solution. At Voalte, we realized a long time ago that our biggest competition isn’t other communication solutions, it’s unsecure SMS texting. We understand that if Voalte Platform isn’t as simple as the consumer equivalent of sending a personal text message or making a phone call, then caregivers won’t use it. To increase security and protect patient privacy, we can’t focus solely on developing the most secure solution, we also have to ensure that it’s usable.
Let’s face it, the health IT industry hasn’t done the best job of making products usable, with electronic health records (EHRs) being a prime example of a necessary system being unnecessarily complex for end users. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review said, “Clinicians are spending almost half their professional time typing, clicking, and checking boxes on electronic records. They can and must be made into useful, easy-to-use tools that liberate, rather than oppress, clinicians.”
We need to expect the same from a communication platform. When comparing your options, consider if a communication platform supports clinical workflows that are simple and powerful, gives users the ability to look up a patient and send a text message to the entire care team with one tap, and allows searches by role, department, team and rooms. In other words, is it as simple to use as the smartphones in their pockets, yet secure enough to protect patient privacy?
Trey Lauderdale is Founder and CEO of Voalte.