The future of healthcare relies on data security

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CIOs at many hospitals throughout the nation are seeing how healthcare inventory management can be carried out based on predictive models, and they want to apply that idea to improving patient care. However, before doctors and nurses have endless access to patient information at their fingertips, security solutions have to be in place. A recent article for HealthITSecurity predicts protecting big data streams will become an issue of higher importance in the upcoming year.

Patients have to be able to trust their information will be secure
Data breaches are embarrassing to all organizations, and can be especially damning to healthcare firms if they fall out of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Keeping this in mind, CIOs must make privacy a top concern.

"Patients are harmed when data aren't used in beneficial ways in the same way they would be harmed if the data were used inappropriately," Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told HealthITSecurity. "So we're trying to use data for good purposes but make sure that good doesn't damage public trust."

When patient information is secured, physicians can begin to work with big data silos and aggregate patient data to perform predictive analytics. Being able to understand the future health outcomes of certain patients provides doctors and nurses with the ability to prepare, and even try to prevent the onset of illnesses. The potential of big data in the world of healthcare is endless, but physicians won't be able to derive that value without being able to assure patients that their important information will remain safe.

The more data available, the better predictive models can be
While it may not be possible to truly know what will happen to patients when they have a certain medical condition, giving doctors access to higher volumes of data will make it slightly easier to predict what could come next. This capability can change the future of healthcare.

Joel Dudley, director of biomedical informatics at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, shared with Fast Company that he wants to be able to enroll 100,000 patients in what he calls the BioMe platform. With access to massive streams of health information, physicians will be able to more accurately understand what leads to certain health outcomes. Access to this data in real time would allow doctors and nurses to create more personalized diagnoses and treatments for several different types of conditions.

"There's nothing like that right now - where we have a sort of predictive modeling engine that's built into a healthcare system," Dudley said. "Those methods exist. The technology exists, and why we're not using that for healthcare right now is kind of crazy."

Data analytics doesn't have to be that far off
While dreams like Dudley's may be something to look forward to in the future, Jeff Hammerbacher, assistant professor of genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, believes that creating a system that harnesses past data to give physicians some information to rely on when trying to diagnose patients could go a long way, according to Fast Company.

"Simply centralizing the data and making it easily available to a broad base of researchers and clinicians will be a powerful tool for developing new models that help us understand and treat disease," Hammerbacher said.

The faster doctors can understand what certain symptoms hint at, the more quickly they can create a personalized care plan to improve patient health. All of these innovative ideas are being held back by data protection issues that persist at healthcare organizations throughout the country.