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Health Information Exchange: Benefits & Risks

Need of HIE

“I was stunned when my son for a year was battling stage 4 glioblastoma & couldn’t get his records (from one hospital to another). I’m the vice president of the United States of America … It was an absolute nightmare. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, that we’re in that circumstance.”
Joe Biden (Former Vice President, U.S.A)

Importance of exchanging meaningful healthcare information across the providers, researchers & patients can’t be overstated. Healthcare providers have realized the importance of having information in digital format and have adopted various tools across the system to make sure the flows through the system as seamlessly as possible, instead of being caged in papers.
Though, this seems to be a big win but as the digitalization & HIE wave rises, it exposes our healthcare information systems to even bigger challenges in the form of Data Security Breach.  

Today, healthcare institutes have multiple systems operating simultaneously like LIMS (Lab Information & Management System), HMIS (Healthcare Management & Information System), EHRs (Electronic Health Records) & what not to make sure that no decision should be taken without complete information. 

But With greater numbers of systems come greater complexities, which leads to even more instances of system loopholes, especially when it comes to “Data System”. While systems are designed for seamless flow of information, it seems a bit too seamless as reported in Healthcare Finance article: “More than 93% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach since Q3 2016, and 57% have had more than five data breaches during the same timeframe. Not only has the number of attacks increased, but more than 300 million records have been stolen since 2015, affecting about one in every 10 healthcare consumers”

Though government bodies across the globe are trying to fight this issue to the fullest with more & more stringent policies like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, US) still the analysts suggest that “Healthcare data breaches will cost industry $4 billion by year’s end, and 2020 is poised to be worse”.

Even after heavy investments in digitising HIE systems by the healthcare sector, the situation seems to be worsening, which may be due to lack of focus on Data Security systems. These systems lack the ability to upgrade & defend themselves against new growing threats (spyware, malware) which evolve along with the technology evolution. The onus should just not be of solution providers, instead healthcare providers should also implement administrative & IT frameworks which surface the weakness of their digital systems to make it more robust.

The risks associated with the HIE systems are quite high & the repercussions could be costly but still these systems can’t be given away solely due to the associated issues, instead integrating AI with these systems would surely provide an edge to overcome associated Data Security Breaches.

What Can AI do?
Artificial Intelligence can help identify loopholes in current system & make sure that systems are kept updated or at-least safeguarded against any new threat identified globally. AI driven solutions should work in 2 parallel tracks

Track 1
Continuously learn from global updates (like reported data breach incidents) about the latest data breach issue.

Track 2
Audit internal systems (Daily or weekly) to identify loopholes with respect to the latest threats identified.

Basis Track 2, a report or real-time notification shall be provided to administrative authorities to make sure corrective measures are taken in time. AI solution should keep monitoring & learning from the updates done in internal HIE systems to take decisions over the time & make sure human interventions dissolve over time and security risks associated are cut down.

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