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Securing Information Exchange in a Modern Healthcare Network

George Chang, VP, Southeast Asia & Hong Kong, Fortinet | May 12, 2014
Healthcare providers can no longer afford to take security lightly.

Healthcare providers are migrating from large, independent standalone organizations into complex new ecosystems. Today, healthcare providing organizations, affiliated physician groups, labs and others are involved in both the provisioning of care, and the collection of vast amounts of information from patients. Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are evolving and are a more affordable means to transfer clinical information and other data.

Healthcare as we know it is changing quickly. Increasingly, healthcare providers will be required to provide communication and collaboration platforms that allow seamless integration among the various stakeholders. These changes in information flows, along with an explosion of digital content that needs to be stored and shared, are driving the need for a secure, flexible and scalable IT platform through which providers, payers and health sciences can support collaboration and information exchange.

The transition towards more patient-centric care and decentralized monitoring means providers, patients and payers need to access information that originates outside the hospital setting. The trends toward personalized medicine, prevention, and wellness means stakeholders need to connect information from various points within the healthcare value chain - including providers, laboratories, payers, and patients. The more this private information is opened to outside entities, the greater the chance that these systems can be compromised either intentionally or accidently.

Trends in the Healthcare Industry

The major challenges to a healthcare provider's network arises from the different business functions increasingly taking place in their network.

  • Allowing Patient and Provider Access to the Network

As contradictory as it sounds, healthcare providers are now looking for ways to increase the access doctors, vendors, and patients have to applications and the Internet. With new guarantees for patients regarding access to information and a focus on lowering costs through new initiatives like telemedicine, the entire healthcare center is driving towards a more collaborative environment where all parties have access to the information they need.

The most obvious security concern with this approach is ensuring that sensitive information like protected health information (PHI) and payment information is kept separate and secured from general Internet and network traffic. This requires encryption and wireless management technology coupled with traffic shaping technology to ensure that the appropriate treatment information is accessible and is always the top priority.

  • Increased Use of Clinical Informatics to Improve Workflow

                        Along with the increased collection and flow of data, healthcare organizations are constantly striving to improve workflow, both physical and information-related. Improved workflows equal lowered costs, happy and productive caregivers and an environment that allows improved patient safety and quality care. The key challenge from a security perspective is ensuring that only the required pieces of data are transferred and nothing more.

  • Increasingly Stringent Compliance Mandates


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