Technology can reinvent healthcare as we know it, but privacy concerns represent a major hurdle for tech companies to overcome. Tech giants are already witnessing backlash against social media users for experimenting with users' newsfeeds and email monitoring. Going forward, it's expected that protests will rise in the wake of technology infiltrating healthcare through software and hardware created by Apple and Google.
The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act requires that healthcare outsourcers, such as Apple and Google, protect information to ensure that patient confidentiality is not compromised. This is to ease patients' privacy concerns regarding access to health records and payment information as well as patients' names and addresses. In response to HIPAA regulations, the tech giants are working with software and hardware vendors to develop healthcare kits.
Apple's team is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems, a software vendor that develops electronic healthcare records, to develop Apple's HealthKit. Apple's aim is to create healthcare applications that are available on iPhones and iPads.
Meanwhile, Google's healthcare app development kit focuses on assisting developers with building digital medical tools to access healthcare history through Android devices.
Both of these approaches hope to streamline the healthcare process. Restructuring healthcare access to medical records can benefit doctors, nurses, patients and insurance companies. Not only would mobile access to healthcare records save time, it could also save money. Mobile access would end the need for paid staff to track down medical records from various sources, such as alternate hospitals, healthcare organizations and insurance companies. Likewise, patients would no longer have to fill out lengthy forms for medical visits. Instead, authorized medical personnel could access patient information through mobile devices. Because of the potential for instant accessibility, repetitive functions would cease, which in turn would save time and money for medical industry staff and the patients they serve.
Conversely, easy access to medical records could lead to lost or stolen healthcare information, which results in privacy concerns. For example, mobile applications are vulnerable to software errors and hacking. In both cases, privacy concerns are an issue, but during an emergency, lost healthcare records could lead to loss of life. In addition, electronic equipment theft is on the rise, so Apple, Google and any other tech companies considering the leap into the healthcare industry need to implement security codes that will deter cyber crimes as well as petty thefts to adhere to HIPAA regulations and assuage privacy concerns.
Establishing instant access to patients' medical records is at the forefront of both the healthcare and tech sectors. For certain tech companies to lead the way in this newly combined industry, they must address privacy concerns on three fronts – software fallibility, application hacking and electronic equipment thefts.