Category Archives: Privacy

Anat kamm

Procedures are not a substitute for ethical behavior

Are procedures  a substitute for responsible and ethical behavior?

The  behavior of former secretary  of  State (and Presidential race loser) Hilary Clinton is an important example of how feeling entitled is not the exclusive domain of under 20-somethings. When we do a threat analysis of medical devices, we try to look beyond the technical security countermeasures and dive into the human factors of employees and managers of the organization.

Leadership from the front trumps security technology.

President Obama’s notion of leading from behind is problematic in the data security and governance space – leadership is about leading from the front.

President Obama’s weak position on enforcing data security and privacy in his administration (Snowden, Clinton and NSA) set a poor example that will take years to undo and probably cost Hilary Clinton the election.

In the business environment,  management leadership from the front on data security and privacy is a more effective (as in cheaper and stronger) countermeasure than technology when it comes to mitigating trusted insider threats.

In the family environment, we traditionally see parents as responsible for taking a leadership position on issues of ethics and responsible behavior.

Has mobile changed this?

Sprint  announced new services that  will allow parents to set phone use limits by time of day or week, see daily calls, text messaging and application activity of their children.  Sprint Mobile Controls powered by Safely, a division of Location Labs,  allows parents to see rich graphical representations of how their family calls, texts and use applications and to lock phones remotely at specific times.

For example:

  • Seeing who your son or daughter has been calling or texting recently – and how often.
  • Establishing an allowed list of phone numbers from which your child can receive a call or text.
  • Seeing a list of your child’s contacts with an associated picture ranked by overall texting and calling activity.
  • Viewing what apps your child is downloading to their phone.
  • Choosing up to three anytime apps that your child can use when their device is locked.
  • Allowing your child to override phone restrictions in case of an emergency.
  • Setting alert notifications for new contacts, or School Hours and Late Night time periods.
  • Setting Watchlist contacts: Receive alert notifications when your child communicates with a Watchlist contact.

This seems like a similar play to product and marketing initiatives by credit card companies to control usage of credit card by children using prepaid cards like the Visa Buxx – except in the case of Visa the marketing message is education in addition to parental control:  Visa Buxx benefits for parents and teens include:

  • Powerful tool to encourage financial responsibility
  • Convenient and flexible way to pay
  • Safer than cash
  • Parental control and peace of mind
  • Wide acceptance—everywhere Visa debit cards are welcome

Visa Buxx was introduced almost 10 years ago. I don’t have any data on how much business the product generates for card issuers but fast forward to December 2011, the message of responsibility has given way to parental control in the mobile market:

In the case of mobile phones, I can see the advantage of a home privacy and security product. From Sprint’s perspective; controlling teens is a big untapped market. Trefis. (the online site that analyzes stock behavior by product lines) has aptly called it “Sprint Targets Burgeoning Teen Market with Parents Playing Big Brother

The teen market, consisting of those in the 12 to 17 year age group, is plugged into cellular devices and plans to a much greater extent than you might imagine. According to a Pew Internet Research study, more than 75% of this group owns a wireless phone. This isn’t news to Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) or mobile phone competitors such as Nokia (NYSE:NOK), AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).

I do not believe that technology is a replacement for education.

It will be interesting to track how well Sprint does with their teen privacy and security product and if parents buy the marketing concept of privacy controls as a proxy for responsible behavior.

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

Kick start your European privacy compliance

The CNIL’s Sanctions Committee issues a 150 000 € monetary penalty to GOOGLE Inc.

On 3 January 2014, the CNIL’s Sanctions Committee issued a 150 000 € monetary penalty to GOOGLE Inc. upon considering that the privacy policy implemented since 1 March 2012 does not comply with the French Data Protection Act. It ordered the company to publish a communiqué on this decision on its homepage Google.fr, within eight days as of its notification.

Does your web site / web service / web application have a privacy policy?

Was that privacy policy written by lawyers who may or may not understand your business and may or may not understand that European states like France have their own regulation of privacy?

You may be facing a stiff penalty for having a non-compliant privacy policy.

The CNIL penalty on Google is a wake-up call.

Thousands of  service providers just like you are sitting on the fence and wondering how to comply with European and French privacy regulation as fast and as effective as possible.

Where do you start?

We’re here to help you get going fast with some common Q&A

Q. Is my existing privacy policy sufficient?

A. Maybe. Maybe not.    A 2 hour review with  with us will give you a clear picture of what you need to do. After the review we will help you rewrite your your privacy policy and terms of service in order to minimize your exposure. For starters, here are 4 points you need to cover:

  1. Does your site sufficiently inform its users of the conditions in which their personal data are processed?
  2. Does your site obtain user consent prior to the storage of cookies?
  3. Does your site define retention periods applicable to the data which it processes?
  4. Does your site  permit itself to combine all the data it collects about its users?

Q. What special systems or security products are required?

A. None. Security defenses are a mistake.  See the next question and answer.

Q. How many hours should I budget for Data Protection compliance? How should I protect my data?

A.  We have an 8 week plan to take you from zero to full Data Protection compliance – budget 6 hours / week and you will get there. You also need to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in your Web site – our Practical Threat Analysis process will pinpoint what you need to do from a perspective of policies and procedures, cloud servers and application security.

Q. What do I do when I complete the 8 week plan for Data Protection compliance?

A. Well, you’ll be sitting on a much more robust system of technical, administrative, policy and procedural controls so go out and have some fun – you deserve it!

If you provide digital services in countries like France and the UK who have local database registration requirements – we will help you comply with local CNIL and UK Data Commissioner requirements.

See CNIL Sanctions on Google for the full story.

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

The dangers of default passwords – 37% of Data Breaches Found to be Malicious Attacks

A malicious attack by malware or spear phishing on valuable data assets like PHI (protected health information) exploits known vulnerabilities  and one of the most common vulnerabilities in medical devices and healthcare IT systems is default passwords.

“Researchers Billy Rios and Terry McCorkle of Cylance have reported a hard-coded password vulnerability affecting a wide variety of medical devices. According to the report, the vulnerability could be exploited to potentially change critical settings and/or modify device firmware. ICS-CERT has been working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on these issues. ICS-CERT and the FDA have notified the affected vendors of the report and have asked the vendors to confirm the vulnerability and identify specific mitigations.” See http://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-13-164-01

And nothing beats hard coded / default passwords in medical devices as a vulnerability for PHI data leakage exploits, whether its an attack by malware, attack by retrieving sensitive data from stolen devices or a software defect that enables an attacker to obtain unauthorized access and transfer sensitive data from the internal network.

Data Breach Infographic

The World’s Leaking Data Infographic created by LifeLock.com

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

The Private Social Network for healthcare

In his post on the Pathcare blog, I trust you to keep this private, Danny Lieberman talked about the roles that trust, security and privacy play in online healthcare interactions. In this post, Danny talks about healthcare privacy challenges in social networks and describes how to implement a private social network for healthcare without government privacy regulation and IT balls and chains.

Online interactions with our HMO

We have online interactions with our healthcare organizations; accessing a Web portal for medical history, scheduling visits etc. Our PHI (protected healthcare information) is hopefully well-secured by our healthcare provider under government regulation (HIPAA in the US, and the Data Protection Directive in the EU). Albeit in the name of privacy, healthcare providers often take security to absurd extremes, witness the following anecdote:

I tried using online medical services with my provider in Hawaii but they could not respond due to my not being in Hawaii. What good is online diagnostic services when the patient is not in his/her home state?

Well now, I thought, that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet so that we could access healthcare services anywhere, anytime. Guess not. With our healthcare provider, we interact with the IT department. Bummer. On Facebook we interact with our friends. Compassion.

A healthcare provider’s business model requires them to protect your health information from disclosure. This is generally interpreted as doing as little as possible to help you be healthy. Social media business models require them to maximize distribution of your content. This means that your privacy is up to you and the people you connect with.

It seems obvious to me, that privacy regulation cannot work in social media because the connectivity is so high. There is no central data center where you can install an IPS and DLP systems and implement all of HIPAA CFR 45 Appendix A administrative, physical and technical safeguards. In that case, let’s get back to basics. We agree that privacy in our healthcare interactions is critical.

What is privacy?

pri·va·cy/ˈprīvəsē/

  1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
  2. The state of being free from public attention

Healthcare privacy by design

Just like you are alone with your doctor in his office,we can build a private social network where the topology of the network guarantees privacy. We describe a star topology where one doctor interacting with many patients. We guarantee online privacy in our star topology network with 3 simple principles;

  1. Each doctor has his own private network of patients.
  2. In the private network, patients do not interact with other patients (interact as in friending, messaging etc.). We can expand the definition a bit by allowing a patient to friend another person in a caregiver role, but this is the only exception to the rule.
  3. A doctors private network does not overlap with other doctor networks, although doctors connect with each other for referrals.

This is a private network for healthcare by design.

What makes it a private social network, is the use of the same social apps we use in social media like Twitter and Facebook: friending, short messaging, status updates, groups, content sharing and commenting/liking.

A doctor uses a private social network for healthcare with the same 3 basic primitives of public social networking: Connect (or friend), Follow and Share.

One of the things that excites me the most about private social networks for healthcare is the potential to make the information technology go away and put the focus back on the patient-physican interaction and quality of clinical care.

  • Doctors save time in interviews because patients can record events and experiences before they come in to the office.
  • Data is more accurate since patients can record critical events like falls and BP drops, in proximity to the event itself.
  • Better data makes physician decisions easier and faster.
  • Better data is good for health and easier and faster is good for business.

What a beautiful business model – compassion, care and great business!

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this
risk-driven medical device security

Can I use Dropbox for storing healthcare data?

First of all, I’m a great fan of Dropbox.  It’s easy to use, fast, runs on Windows, Mac and Linux  and that means you can share files with colleagues and patients for consultations because that old assumption (that a lot of vendors still make by the way) that everyone is on Windows just isn’t true these days.  People have Windows 7, Mac, Ubutu 12.04, Android smart phones, iPads and they all run Dropbox.

When you have multiple Dropbox clients configured, your files will be instantly synchronized between all your devices when they come online. I use it daily to exchange files between my Android phone, Android tablet and Ubuntu desktop. Any change performed in the monitored folder is immediately synchronized with the other devices. My colleague Sharon, who has an iPad3 and a iMac, is synchronized with me and we can quickly exchange files regarding cases we are working on together especially leading up to our weekly review meeting.

Dropbox – public by design

Dropbox is easy but is it private?  The short answer is that you should not store PHI (protected health information on Dropbox – since they share data with third party applications and service providers, but the real reason is you should not use Dropbox for sharing healthcare information with patients is simply that it is not private by design.  Everyone who shares a folder in your dropbox sees all the files in the dropbox.

From the Dropbox Privacy policy:

We may collect and store the following information when running the Dropbox Service:

Information You Provide.   When you register an account, we collect some personal information, such as your name, phone number, credit card or other billing information, email address and home and business postal addresses.

Personal Information.   In the course of using the Service, we may collect personal information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Information”). Personal Information is or may be used: (i) to provide and improve our Service, (ii) to administer your use of the Service, (iii) to better understand your needs and interests, (iv) to personalize and improve your experience, and (v) to provide or offer software updates and product announcements.

Service Providers, Business Partners and Others.   We may use certain trusted third party companies and individuals to help us provide, analyze, and improve the Service (including but not limited to data storage, maintenance services, database management, web analytics, payment processing, and improvement of the Service’s features). These third parties may have access to your information only for purposes of performing these tasks on our behalf and under obligations similar to those in this Privacy Policy.

Third-Party Applications.   We may share your information with a third party application with your consent,

Data retention. We may retain and use your information as necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce our agreements.

Privacy of healthcare information by design

If you want to have complete control and privacy of data that you share with patients, you need a controlled, private social network for healthcare that ensures no overlap between patients and no overlap between physician networks.  This is privacy by design.

 

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

How to keep secrets in healthcare online


The roles of trust, security and privacy in healthcare.  If President Obama had told his psychiatrist he was gay, you can bet that it would be on Facebook in 5′. So much for privacy.

pri·va·cy/ˈprīvəsē/

Noun:

The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

The state of being free from public attention

When it comes to healthcare information, there have always been two circles of trust – the trust relationship with your physician and the trust that you place in your healthcare provider/insurance company/government health service.

With social networks like Facebook, a third circle of trust has been created: the circle of trust between you and your friends in the social network.

Patient-doctor privacy

When we share our medical situation with our doctor, we assume we can trust her to keep it private in order to help us get well. Otherwise – we might never share information regarding thoses pains in in the right side over our abdomen, and discover after an ultrasound has been done, that our fatty liver is closely related to imbibing too many pints of beer and vodka chasers with the mates after work – when you have been telling the missus that you are working late at the office.

Healthcare provider – patient privacy

When we share medical information with our healthcare provider, we trust their information security as being strong enough to protect our medical information from a data breach. Certainly – as consumers of healthcare services, it’s impossible for us to audit the effectiveness of their security portfolio.

With our healthcare provider, revealing personal information depends on how much we trust them and that trust depends on how good a job they do on information security, and how effectively they implemented the right management, technical and physical safeguards.

If you’re not sure about the privacy, trust and security triangle, just consider Swiss banks.

Millions of people have online healthcare interactions – asking doctors questions onlines, sharing experiences in forums, interacting with doctors using social media tools like blogs and groups and of course – asking Dr. Google.

Privacy among friends

When we share medical information with our friends on Facebook/Google+ or Twitter we trust them to keep it private within our own personal parameters of vulnerability analysis.

Note that there is feeling secure (but not being secure – chatting about your career in crime on Facebook) and being secure while not feeling secure (not wanting to use your credit card online – face it, with over 300 million credit cards breached in the past 5 years, chances are, your credit card is out there and it doesn’t seem to make a difference now, does it?).

Trust between 2 people interacting (whether its face-to-face or on Facebook) is key to sharing sensitive information, since it mitigates or eliminates the damage of unexpected disclosure.

Let’s illustrate the notion of personal trust as a security countermeasure for unexpected disclosure with a story:

Larry interacts with his lawyer Sarah regularly, once a week or more. It’s a professional relationship, and over time, Larry and Sarah gain each others trust, and in addition to contracts and commercial terms and conditions, the conversations encompass children, career and life. Larry knows Sarah is divorced and is empathetic to the challenges of being a full-time mother and corporate lawyer. Come end of year, Larry sends Sarah a box of chocolate wishing her a successful and prosperous New Year. Sarah’s 14 year old daughter, who is pushing her to start dating again, sees the gift package and draws conclusions that Mom has a new beau. Sarah now has to go into damage control mode with a teenage daughter. It may take Larry months (if ever…) to regain the trust of his colleague. This is literally the damage of unexpected disclosure of private information.

Unlike a healthcare provider, on Facebook we only interact with our friends.

We have digital interactions with our healthcare provider, accessing a Web portal for medical history, scheduling visits and lab tests online etc. These are interactions unrelated to the personal relationship with our physician. The data in these interactions is regulated by governments and secured by healthcare provider information security organizations.

Your healthcare provider’s business model requires them to protect your health information from disclosure.

In our digital interactions on Facebook or Twitter,  there is no organizational element to the security, trust and privacy equation only the personal element. This is because your Gmail, tweets and Facebook conversations are the content that drives Google, Twitter and Facebook advertising revenues.

Social media business models require them to distribute as much of your content as possible.

So, is there a reasonable solution to ensure private healthcare interactions on social networks?

The answer,  I believe, lies in getting back to the dictionary definition of privacy, and creating a private social network for healthcare that enables you, your doctor and family to “be free from being observed or disturbed by other people”.

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

Insecurity by compliance

If a little compliance creates a false sense of security then a lot of compliance regulation creates an atmosphere of feeling secure, while in fact most businesses and Web services are in fact very insecure.

Is a free market democracy doomed to suffer from privacy breaches – by definition?

My father is a retired PhD in system science from UCLA who worked for many years in the defense industry in Israel and California.  At age 89 he is sharp, curious and wired, with an iPad and more connected and easily accessible on the Net than most people are on their phone.

He sent me this item which turned out to be yet another piece of Internet spam and urban legend that has been apparently circulating the Net for over 10 years and has resurfaced just in time for the US Presidential elections.

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government….The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage

I told my Dad that it looks and smells like spam.  A quick read shows that it is a generalization from a sample of one.  The Roman Empire lasted about 500 years. The Ottoman Empire lasted over 700 years. The British Empire lasted about 200 years from 1783 to 1997 (withdrawal from the Falklands).  The Russian Empire lasted 200 years and the Soviets lasted less than 80. The Byzantine over 1000 and so on… See http://listverse.com/2010/06/22/top-10-greatest-empires-in-history/.

Rumors of the downfall of American democracy are premature, even though the US is more of a service economy than a manufacturing economy today than it was 200 years ago.

The US has shifted over the past 40 years from manufacturing and technology innovation to technology innovation, retail, outsourcing and financial services.    An obvious observation is Apple, with most of it’s manufacturing jobs outside the US, a net worth of a not-so-small country and perhaps, the most outstanding consumer technology innovator in the world. Another, and more significant example is Intel, one of the world’s technology leaders with a global operation from Santa Clara to Penang to China to Haifa and Jerusalem.  World class companies like Intel and Apple are a tribute to US strengths and vitality not weaknesses. In comparison, excluding Germany, Poland and a handful of other European countries, the EU is on the edge of bankruptcy.

In this period of time, has the US improved it’s information security in the face of rapidly increasing connectivity,  mobile devices and apps and emerging threats such as APT (advanced persistent threats)?

Apparently not.

 In the sphere of privacy and information security, the US leads in data security breaches while the EU leads in data security and privacy. The EU has strong, uniform data security regulation, whereas the US has a quilt-work of hundreds of privacy and security directives where each government agency has it’s own system for data security compliance and each state has it’s own legislation (albeit generally modeled after California) for privacy compliance.

The sheer volume and fragmented state of US data security and privacy regulation is practically a guarantee that most of the regulation will not be properly enforced.

On the other hand, the unified nature of EU data security directives makes it easier to enforce since everyone is on the same page.

We would argue that a free market, American style economy results on more technology innovation and economic vitality but also creates a chaotic regulatory environment where the breach of 300 million US credit cards in less than 10 years is an accepted norm. The increase in compliance regulation by the Obama administration does not impress me as a positive step in improving security.

As my colleague, John P. Pironti, president of risk and information security consulting firm IP Architects, said in an interview:

The number-one thing that scares me isn’t the latest attack, or the smartest guy in the street, it’s security by compliance, for example with PCI DSS 2.0

Security by compliance, he said, doesn’t do a company any favors, especially because attackers can reverse-engineer the minimum security requirements dictated by a standard to look for holes in a company’s defense.

In that case, if a little compliance creates a false sense of security then a lot of compliance regulation will create an atmosphere of feeling secure, while in fact most businesses and Web services are in fact very insecure.

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this
Manuela Arcuri

Monica Belluci and Security

Trends –  security and movie stars, Manuela Arcuri and  Monica Bellucci, Verisign and Mcafee.

Information security and  risk analysis is complex stuff, with multiple dimensions  of people, software, performance, management, technology, assets, threats, vulnerabilities and control relationships.  This is why it’s hard to sell security to organizations. But, information security is also a lot like fashion with cyclical hype and theater: today – , HIPAA, iOS and Android security,  yesterday – Sarbanes-Oxley, federated identity management, data loss protection and application security firewalls.

Back in 2007,  I thought we might a return to the Age of Reason, where rational risk management replaces blind compliance check lists – I thought that this could happen  for 2 reasons:

  1. Compliance projects  can have good business value, if you focus on improving the product and it’s delivery.
  2.  Security is like fashion – both are cyclical industries, the wheel can also turn around in the right direction.

HIPAA compliance is a minimum but not sufficient requirement for product and process improvement.

Healthcare companies and medical device vendors that do HIPAA compliance projects, may be paying a steep price for HIPAA compliance without necessarily getting a return on their investment by improving the core features and functionality of their products and service offerings.

Compliance driving improvements in products and services is good for business, not just a mantra from Mcafee.

It could happen, but then again, maybe not. Look at the trends. Taking a sample of articles published in 2011 on the  eSecurityPlanet Web site we see that  mobile devices and cloud services lead the list, followed by IT security with healthcare closing the top 15. I guess cost-effective compliance is a lot less interesting than Android security.

  1. iOS vs. Android Security: And the Winner Is?
  2. 5  iOS 5 Enterprise Security Considerations – You can’t keep Apple out of the enterprise anymore so it’s best to figure out the most secure way to embrace it, writes Dan Croft of Mission Critical Wireless.
  3. PlayBook Tops in Tablet Security – Recent price reductions may mean more Blackberry Playbook tablets entering your organization, but that may not be such a bad thing for IT security teams.
  4. Android Security Becoming an Issue – As the Android mobile platform gains market share, it also garners a lot of interest from cyber crooks as well as IT security vendors.
  5. Which Browser is the Most Secure? – The ‘most hostile’ one, say researchers at Accuvant Labs.
  6. How to Prevent Employees from Stealing Your Intellectual Property -It’s the employee with the sticky hands that is the easiest and cheapest to thwart.
  7. Security Spend Outpacing the Rest of IT – High profile breaches and mobile devices are driving IT security spending.
  8. Public Cloud Keys Too Easy to Find -If you put the keys to your cloud infrastructure in plain sight, don’t be surprised if you get hacked.
  9. Zeus (Still) Wants Your Wallet – The antivirus community has failed to figure out this able and persistent piece of malware. It’s as simple as that.
  10. Spear Phishing Quickly Coming of Age – Even the security giants are not immune from this sophisticated and growing form of attack, writes Jovi Bepinosa Umawing of GFI Software.
  11. Penetration Testing Shows Unlikely Vulnerabilities – Enterprises need to dig deeper than just automated scanning to find the really interesting and dangerous cyber security flaws.
  12. Bank Fraud Still Costing Plenty – Bank fraud is and will continue to be an expensive problem.
  13. Do IT Security Tools Really Make You Safer? – Yet another suite of tools for IT security folks to administer and manage can actually have the opposite effect.
  14. Siege Warfare in the Cyber Age – In one the unlikeliest turn of events brought about by technology, it looks like Middle Ages’ siege warfare may be making a comeback, writes Gunter Ollmann of Damballa.
  15. Healthcare Breaches Getting Costlier – And it’s not just dollars and cents that are on the line – reputations are on the line, writes Geoff Webb of Credant Technologies.
Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this
Federal Healthcare Chart

Healthcare data interoperability pain

Data without interoperability =  pain.

What is happening in the US healthcare space is fascinating as stimulus funds (or what they call in the Middle East – “baksheesh”) are being paid to doctors to acquire an Electronic Health Records system that has “meaningful use”. The term “meaningful use” is vaguely  defined in the stimulus bill as programs that can enable data interchange, e-prescribing and quality indicators.

Our hospital recently spent millions on a emr that does not integrate with any outpatient emr. Where is the data exchanger and who deploys it? What button is clicked to make this happen! My practice is currently changing its emr. We are paying big bucks for partial data migration. All the assurances we had about data portability when we purchased our original emr were exaggerated to make a sale. Industry should have standards. In construction there are 2×4 ‘s , not 2×3.5 ‘s.
Government should not impinge on privacy and free trade but they absolutely have a key role in creating standards that ensure safety and promote growth in industry.
Read more here:  Healthcare interoperatbility pains

Mr Obama’s biggest weakness is that he has huge visions but he can’t be bothered with the details so he lets his team and party members hack out implementations, which is why his healthcare initiatives are on a very shaky footing – as the above doctor aptly noted.  But perhaps something more profound is at work. The stimulus bill does not mention standards as a pre-requisite for EHR, and I assume that the tacit assumption (like many things American) is that standards will “happen” due to the power of free markets. This is at odds with Mr. Obama’s political agenda of big socialistic government with central planning. As the doctor said: “government absolutely (must) have a key role in creating standards that ensure safety and promote growth in industry”.  The expectation that this administration set is that they will take care of things, not that free markets will take care of things.  In the meantime, standards are being developed by private-public partnerships like HITSP – enabling healthcare interoperability

The Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) is a cooperative partnership between the public and private sectors. The Panel was formed for the purpose of harmonizing and integrating standards that will meet clinical and business needs for sharing information among organizations and systems.

It’s notable that HITSP stresses their mission as meeting clinical and business needs for sharing information among organizations and systems.   The managed-care organizations call people consumers so that they don’t have to think of them as patients.

I have written here, here and here about the drawbacks of packaging Federal money, defense contractors and industry lobbies as “private-public partnerships”.

You can give a doctor $20k of Federal money to buy EMR software, but if it doesn’t interact with the most important data source of all (the patient), everyone’s ROI (the doctor, the patient and the government) will approach zero.

Vendor-neutral standards are key to interoperability. If the Internet were built to HITSP style standards, there would be islands of Internet connectivity and back-patting press-releases, but no Internet.

The best vendor-neutral standards we have today are created by the IETF – a private group of volunteers, not by a “private-public partnership”.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual. The IETF Mission Statement is documented in RFC 3935.

However – vendor-neutral standards are a necessary but insufficient condition for “meaningful use” of data.  There also has to be fast, cheap and easy to use access in the “last mile”.  In healthcare – the last mile is the patient-doctor interaction.

About 10-15 years ago, interoperability in the telecommunications and  B2B spaces was based on an EDI paradigm with centralized messaging hubs for system to system document interchange. As mobile evolved into 3G, cellular applications made a hard shift to a distributed paradigm with middleware-enabled interoperability from a consumer handset to all kinds of 3G services – location, games, billing, accounting etc running at the operator and it’s content partners.

The healthcare industry is still at the EDI stage of development – as we can see from organizations like WEDI and HIMSS

The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI)

Improve the administrative efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness of healthcare through the implementation of business strategies for electronic record-keeping, and information exchange and management...provide multi-stakeholder leadership and guidance to the healthcare industry on how to use and leverage the industry’s collective technology, knowledge, expertise and information resources to improve the administrative efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness of healthcare information.

What happened to quality and effectiveness of patient-care?

It is not about IT and cost-effectiveness of information (whatever that means). It’s about getting the doctor and her patient exactly the data they need when they need it.   That’s why the doctor went to medical school.

Compare EDI-style message-hub centric protocols to RSS/Atom on the Web where any Web site can publish content and any endpoint (browser or tablet device) can subscribe easily. As far as I can see, the EHR space is still dominated by the  “message hub, system-system, health-provider to health provider to insurance company to government agency” model, while in the meantime, tablets are popping everywhere with interesting medical applications. All these interesting applications will not be worth much if they don’t interact enable the patient and doctor to share the data.

Imagine the impact of IETF style standards, lightweight protocols (like RSS/Atom) and $50 tablets running data sharing apps between doctors and patients.

Imagine vendor-neutral, standard middleware for  EHR applications that would expose data for patients and doctors using an encrypted Atom protocol – very simple, very easy to implement, easy to secure and with very clear privacy boundaries. Perhaps not my first choice for sharing radiology data but a great way to share vital signs and significant events like falling and BP drops.

This would be the big game changer  for the entire healthcare industry.  Not baksheesh. Not EDI. Not private-public partnerships.

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this

Customer convenience or customer privacy

This is a presentation I gave at the UPU (Universal Postal Union) EPSG (Electronic Products and Services working Group) working meeting in Bern on Feb 20, 2007. About 25 people from 20 countries were present and it was a great experience for me to hear how Postal operations see themselves and what they do in the B2C e-commerce space.
Click here to download the presentation

Tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thanks!
Share this