How Clinical Communication and Collaboration Platforms Ensure Patient Data Security

With digital integration in healthcare comes growing cyber threats

By Will O’Connor, MD

We’ve seen the transformation that digital integration is making in many aspects of life, including within the healthcare industry. Many benefits come along with a digitally integrated system: Healthcare professionals can quickly access patient data and records, allowing them to more efficiently diagnose and treat illnesses. But these advances, while useful in streamlining treatment processes, can also create negative outcomes if mishandled.

That’s especially true considering that the amount of data created, captured, and shared daily will only continue to grow. Currently, the healthcare sector generates approximately 30% of the world’s data, and this creates a dangerous environment for patients. The industry’s technological advances pose serious security risks; large databases of personal health records are attractive targets for those who would use ransomware or other forms of intrusion to manipulate or access sensitive data.

In recent years, cyberattacks have strained IT departments and shown the vulnerability of electronic health record (EHR) systems that store patient information. Over 85% of global healthcare organizations have endured operational outages due to a direct ransomware attack. Damage from an attack on an EHR could be catastrophic, especially when considering the potential for financial harm, the loss of patient data, and the risk to patient safety. One study showed revenue loss could cost nearly $9,000 per minute and total as much as $10.5 trillion annually. In addition to these losses, an attack would disrupt care delivery and communications, as well as likely causing significant reputational damage.

Solving the problem

Ultimately, many EHRs weren’t designed to cover everything from communication to collaboration; they were built specifically for managing records and billing. That’s cause for concern given the heightened threat environment today. There is a critical need for robust security protocols that protect against potential cyber threats, so teams can still communicate even in the event of an attack or EHR downtime.

These days, tech-savvy criminals can outsmart even the most secure systems. In response, healthcare organizations must find alternative strategies for safeguarding data. Developing ways of exchanging data outside an EHR is crucial for any organization that wants to remain ahead of the evolving hacker threat. Thankfully, healthcare systems don’t have to reinvent the wheel. By harnessing creative solutions and promising new methods and technologies, these systems will be one step closer to protecting patients’ vital information while leaving communication and collaboration intact.

The most sensible answer to the issues at hand is a clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform that can bridge the gap, and many healthcare organizations are already turning to this solution. Not only can these platforms integrate with a hospital system’s EHR, but they exist and work outside of the EHR. Thus, advanced CC&C platforms can remain operational regardless of any event that creates an outage elsewhere. Plus, cloud-based CC&C platforms provide data encryption and are HIPAA compliant, protecting patient data around the clock.

Leading CC&C platforms provide a range of functionalities, including alarm management, event notification, patient engagement, scheduling, and message security. The user experience is unchanged yet secure; messages can be automatically deleted, or devices can be wiped clean, providing invaluable benefits considering the rise in malicious attacks on healthcare organizations. This type of system helps build collaborative care plans by empowering primary care physicians, surgeons, and specialists to add their input. It also delivers tremendous value by enabling teams like administrative staff to interact without delays.

Advancing healthcare communication and collaboration can make a great difference in the quality of care delivered. When developing comprehensive care plans that span stakeholders, departments, and even facilities, having an advanced CC&C platform helps streamline the process. Through this platform, complicated workflows become manageable. Moreover, the platform ensures that confidential data is managed with tight security measures and reliable backup systems to protect patient privacy.

Tying it all together for the greater good

Despite the ubiquity of EHRs in healthcare, organizations relying on them alone for storing sensitive data and communication place themselves and their patients in a precarious position. That’s why having a CC&C platform as part of an organization’s digital toolkit is essential. Not only can a CC&C platform deliver secure and stable access to critical information—even when downtime occurs—but it also provides all users with the tools to communicate across the care continuum.

Healthcare organizations must prioritize cybersecurity measures to protect their patients’ data as threats become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated. Using an EHR system integrated with a HIPAA-compliant CC&C platform to store information securely and being proactive about following best practices for safeguarding patients will not only improve workflow efficiency by allowing cross-functional teams to coordinate, but also enable team coordination in the event of an emergency or a cyberattack. With so much at stake, a CC&C platform should be seen as an investment in long-term success. With increased safety and streamlined efficiency comes improved patient outcomes, making this technology essential for protecting data and providing better care in the ever-evolving digital age.

Will O’Connor, MD, is the chief medical information officer at TigerConnect. He’s an industry-known physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience focused on operations, strategic planning, consulting, client delivery, and thought leadership across the healthcare industry.