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5 Secure Messaging Predictions for 2016

The popularity and proliferation of health information technology (HIT) has led to the following quandary: how do we keep all that vital, personal information safe, secure and HIPAA compliant? It’s a question that has stopped some providers in their technical tracks, propelling innovators to come up with viable, secure message solutions.

Telmediq has been heeding the call for digital, HIPAA compliance since I founded the service in 2012, providing a communications platform for secure text messaging, paper replacement answering service, and on-call scheduling integrations. We've seen how secure messaging has grown in sophistication as technology continues to push and promote the explosive exchange of data in healthcare. HIT is booming, and health providers are becoming hip to the ways of digital data. Now in the midst of this technological evolution, trends are still emerging. Here’s just a few we can expect to see as we enter another new year:

More Data will Reach the Clouds

There’s no question that the rise of the cloud will continue in 2016. According to a cloud computing survey conducted by venture capital firm Northbridge, in partnership with analyst firm Wikibon, the cloud has been gaining year-over-year momentum in a multitude of industries over the past five years.

Software as a service (SAAS) and infrastructure as a service (IAAS) have been the most pervasive, with SAAS in 77 percent of the surveyed organizations, and IAAS in 67 percent. Yet, there continue to be inhibitors concerning cloud adoption; security and privacy remain to be at the top, and in healthcare industry, those inhibitors are even trickier because of HIPAA regulations.

However, with large cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure supporting HIPAA-compliant deployments, hospitals and healthcare systems will start to see the cloud as a more viable means to deliver secure, reliable and cost-effective communications via SaaS solutions.

Wearables and Mobile Will Out Pace Legacy Devices

Wearables have continued to show novel appeal in the consumer market, but of course, no one is sure how long that will last or if consumer proliferation will make any meaningful impact in regards to HIT. Nevertheless, wearables and mobile devices have found a place in the healthcare industry among providers, and that fact will continue to prove itself true in the coming years.

In 2016, we will continue to see healthcare enterprise communications converge, with smartphones and wearables leading the way. As a result, legacy devices such as nurse house phones, hardware badges, and pagers will continue to be deprecate in favor of consumer smartphones and wearable technology running unified HIPAA-compliant communications software.

It’s hard to believe that pagers are still considered a communication staple in healthcare, but they are thanks to their reliability and compatibility with deeply entrenched workflows. Yet as HIPAA-compliant and secure messaging platforms begin to understand the deeper complexities of healthcare communications, wearables and smartphones will eventually gain the upper hand. Moore says the distinction between ‘nurse’ and ‘doctor’ communications platforms will also slowly fade away.

EMR Integration Will Prove Eminent

There’s simply no getting around the fact that any solution added to the data mix must integrate with providers’ existing EMR technology. Improved workflows, visibility and accountability are all propelling the need for providers to have tools that work with those EHR/EMR systems as their backbones. Some say pure integration is a lofty and evasive goal, but as communication and clinical documentation tools evolve in functionality, they are starting to narrow the integration gap.

Furthermore, data interoperability standards in healthcare such as FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources) will help pave the way for cross-app communication, eliminating duplicate data entry and providing a central database for patient-related communications.

Bring Your Own Device Policies Will Bulk Up

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have emerged in healthcare, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. However, personal device use has fallen under scrutiny as it could create technical soft spots in HIT infrastructure, which could result in data breaches. Nevertheless, the potential cost savings of BYOD strategies will continue to attract adoption. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global market for BYOD will increase to approximately $181.39 billion by 2017. Of course, personal device use gets tricky if not risky in healthcare, but it will continue to become a reality as mobile devices and wearables become an essential part of health providers’ workflows.

To steer clear of the privacy and security risks, organizations will need robust, clearly defined BYOD policies in place to mitigate HIPAA violations. Thus, tightening up those reigns in the coming years will be essential before the personal data exchange really explodes.

Failed Solutions will Draw Out Data Silos

In the face of mounting HIPAA concerns and expanded audits, the majority of hospitals will evaluate and deploy some type of secure texting solution over the next year. However, many will experience failed adoptions by trying to implement solutions that don’t integrate with clinical systems, scheduling systems, call center software, and other enterprise systems, siloing the communications data healthcare professionals need to make informed decisions.

It’s a mistake many will make, but also many could learn from by properly vetting out amendable solutions that can integrate with those systems. Additionally, secure provider-to-patient apps and internal messaging apps will no longer exist separately from one another, as the previously disparate channels will coalesce into holistic communications platforms that seek to secure and streamline both internal and external communications.

When it comes to technology adoption, healthcare may still be a bit behind the eight ball— but if one thing is clear from Moore’s perspective—it’s that the industry is catching up. There’s simply too much evolution out there to ignore. Big data, wearable technology, clinical documentation tools, EHR/EMR software, and communication platforms all are conflating to create huge challenges in the industry, but beyond that, hey are converging to create huge possibilities for today’s healthcare providers. How far will that potential take them? Well, no one can come close to predicting that just yet.

This post originally appeared on HITConsultant.

blog, EMR, HIPAA, Mobile, Technology