Much of the focus on healthcare technology is on its dark side, the potential that the information will be hacked. That’s a reasonable concern, especially given the gigantic exposure of user data at Anthem, which many security experts now believe originated with government-sponsored IT security researchers in China.
Well, here’s the light side: healthcare technology is saving lives – as demonstrated by a recent Information Age article by Bryan Lewis of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI): “How Big Data is Beating Ebola”. VBI is a firm that specializes in computational epidemiology, which essentially means that they study data related to epidemics to better control the spread of disease and determine the degree of success achieved by public health efforts.
In order to properly understand how the disease might spread, VBI designed a virtual model containing populations that were each assigned adjustable characteristics. The virtual geographic environment was fed information including race, sex, age, typical family arrangements, travel between different areas, and gatherings – essentially a predictive analytic model on a worldwide scale.
The synthetic data “was created in such a way that it mirrored actual census, social, transit and telecommunications data patterns from the targeted population,” explained Lewis.
The resultant sophisticated system allowed VBI to help improve the response to the disease and minimize its death toll, which exceeded 9000 as of January 2015.
While the Anthem hack reminds us that technology with patient data must be incredibly secure, the positive impact of computing on healthcare is truly remarkable. We must build systems that improve the effectiveness of healthcare while never forgetting the security concerns when handling protected health information (PHI).
The second episode of our Google Hangout on Air (HOA) series (see the above video), featured Gene Geiger, one of the founding partners of security and compliance firm A-lign. We spoke with Geiger about the general security climate and compliance with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Atlantic.Net offers a turn-key HIPAA Compliant Web Hosting solution to help meet all your HIPAA compliance hosting needs.
By Moazzam Adnan