Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Health Technology Critics Are Missing The Point (Part 1)

In our past blogs, we have always approached the concept of revolutionary health technology with open arms. We feel that healthcare, like any industry, needs to constantly evolve and improve in order to stay relevant. After all, if WebMD ever becomes more up-to-date than a family physician, who would bother paying for an appointment? However, there is another side to this argument. Many industry experts, including members of the Department Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), feel that too much tech, too quickly, will cause massive compliance issues and will put the data of millions at risk. Is there truth to what they're saying?

There are serious arguments on both sides, but since we have been favoring one view over the other, it’s time to look at some of the reasons many in the health industry are hoping that social media and mobile technology simply fade away. Among the most common of these is the thought that technology has simply moved along too quickly, and that protective best practices have yet to catch up. Many in the industry are looking to HIPAA for answers, expecting laws to be passed down from above, but this is likely going to remain an issue for individual hospital managers to deal with; at least for the time being.

A few weeks ago, we posted some Ponemon Study statistics revealing that, despite being used by 80% of health organizations, only half of the country’s healthcare facilities have any regulations for the use of smart phones and other mobile devices. Until HHS can catch up with the shockingly fast wave of consumer demand, the number of mobile-related data breaches is only going to rise. And this isn’t the only risk mobile devices create. On the consumer end of the spectrum, things aren’t looking much better.

The lack of regulated health apps for mobile devices means that many consumers are turning to whatever options are out there. They are being fed inaccurate information from applications and websites that are, for the moment, unregulated and unmonitored. Those consumers are going into medical practices with their own (frequently incorrect) opinions of their symptoms, giving docs a false impression. Even worse, some consumers are taking these web-sourced diagnosis apps at face value, and seeking out prescriptions or over-the-counter medications they don’t actually need. This is a space where the medical industry really has a chance to make a difference. The social benefits of creating a physician-run network of medical advice are staggering, yet no such initiative has come to fruition.

In our next blog, we’ll focus in further on how mobile technology is impacting the workers on the floors of hospitals and private practices.


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

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