The way people buy, conduct their banking and operate their companies have transformed dramatically with the advent of mobile device use and greater network access. In healthcare, however, extensive digital improvements are still trailing behind other sectors. The COVID-19 epidemic, first identified in December 2019, has hastened development in many areas, but a thorough digital revamp that might improve care delivery for patients and clinicians is still in the works.
Digital transformation may imply an enhanced patient experience, decreased practitioner fatigue, better health outcomes and cheaper costs. So, what are the hurdles many healthcare organizations confront while implementing a digital health model? Interoperability, reliability of technological components, cybersecurity, privacy and disinformation are among them.
1. Enhanced Health Interoperability
The transition from paper-based to electronic medical records was simply the tip of the iceberg for healthcare’s trek for the modernization of healthcare. With more sophisticated capabilities, the industry envisioned a variety of crucial digital health treatments, such as better chronic illness management, non-pharmacological pain management methods, more patient participation in care, and better independent living outcomes for the elderly.
Interoperability is a big concern in healthcare. According to a 2020 Pew Charitable Trusts study, 81% of Americans favor improved access to health information for providers and consumers. However, the required standards for interoperability are still absent, and the lack of acceptance of current standards remains a hurdle. Moreover, data misrepresentations, missing information, and data inaccuracies contribute to poor data quality, impeding interoperability.
2. Lack of Reliable Technological Components
Another problem is that successful digital interventions are dependent on the error-free operation of every component of the technology. Given that the potential for such mistakes lies beyond the purview of medical responsibility, the scope of any potential culpability may go beyond a single healthcare facility, such as a hospital or clinic. The difficulty is in identifying a sphere that takes into consideration nonmedical and nonclinical responsibility as well as medical culpability.
3. Safety Concern in the Healthcare Industry
The importance of ensuring that healthcare networks are secure in the digital realm cannot be overstated. Personal health information is often very valuable, making it a prime target for cyberattacks that may precisely target sensitive data. Attacks carried out with malicious intent may result in a disruption of treatment, which can then lead to patient injury and adverse medical outcomes.
High-impact threats are difficult to anticipate. For instance, the likelihood of a ransomware assault on a hospital database through a patient-connected device may be minimal if the database is on a private network. However, such an assault might severely harm the hospital’s image and violate patient confidentiality.
4. Patient Privacy
The protection of one’s privacy and one’s digital security are inextricably linked. Because digital interventions make use of a variety of devices and apps, there are an excessive number of potential vulnerabilities that might expose personally identifiable information as well as protected health information. Leaking patient data may have severe repercussions, including damage to the patient’s reputation, the potential for discrimination and fraud, and other problems.
It is well recognized that the use of multifactor authentication may create trust in the authenticating users, particularly the inclusion of at least one biometric as a factor in the authentication process. Integrity and privacy are both improved when sensitive data communications are encrypted using public-private key cryptography and signed using a digital signature. Additionally, it is strongly suggested that the device encrypts any files or data that are kept on it automatically whenever they are saved.
5. Countering Disinformation
When it comes to adopting extensive digital treatments, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is the continued circulation of inaccurate information in the healthcare industry. When it is recognized that spreading false information might cause recipients either direct or indirect damage, this kind of misinformation can be considered malevolent.
The legitimacy of the research must be protected by digital interventions, which must also depend on channels that can be trusted when transferring information. In addition, there is a pressing need for a more robust reaction whenever medical information is disseminated.
Overcoming the Challenges
The challenges that are mentioned in this article should not be seen to be road bumps, given the fact that the digital health development contains great potential. Instead, they should be seen as road signals that warn of possible dangers ahead, prompting healthcare systems to proceed cautiously but resolutely in their pursuit of success.
As Sara Vaezy, the Chief Digital Strategy and Business Development Officer at Providence (located in Renton, Washington) stated it: “It is less important to adapt to the epidemic than it is to leverage our learnings to promote the aim of the health systems and innovation to serve all patients in a way that is more effective, scalable, and egalitarian. New degrees of freedom are becoming available, and it is our responsibility.”