This article was originally published on Forbes on December 28, 2018. Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, is a contributor to the Forbes Technology Council.
Prior to the development of microprocessors through the 1970s, the paradigm for “computer” was a large array of big metal cabinets housing spinning tapes and flashing lights. Those who wanted to access information would have to go to the computer and get it.
With the introduction of the Apple computer, the IBM PC and everything that came after, the computer became a device that came to you and sat on your desk, then your lap and, finally, your hand. You could now access information wherever you happened to be.
Now that was a digital transformation.
Portability With Accountability Brings The New Digital Transformation To Health Care
If you were to ask most patients what HIPAA is, they would probably talk about rules that are meant to keep their private health care information (PHI) safe and secure by limiting what health care providers can do with it. That’s not quite the goal.
The Healthcare Information Portability & Accountability Act was written to assure exactly what it says. The goal is to institute a set of rules that assure that all health care professionals take their own accountability seriously when transporting PHI from one place to another or from one agency or entity to another. This is meant to increase the ability to share PHI with others who are involved in delivering superior care to the patients involved.
Defining how health care professionals must secure PHI during transport enables a new digital transformation that is similar to the one in the 1980s. No longer must patients go to their doctor to obtain their own information, and no longer must practitioners have patients brought to their office or a local hospital to deliver care that requires access to PHI.
Patients all but expect that their health care providers and health care information will be available to them from a web portal. Online patient management systems have gone from competitive advantage to mandatory. Fully participating in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world has only served to increase the safe portability of PHI. Whereas once data had to be transported on recorded media such as a CD or memory card, that data is now transported from one provider to another with full accountability by sending it to and retrieving it from secure cloud computing services.
As the CEO of a company that offers a cloud-based medical imaging platform, I’ve seen firsthand how X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other radiological imaging can be quickly transmitted to sites of urgent care situations and image-intensive services such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, oncology, cardiology and more.
Bringing The Data To The Doctor
Patient digital access to their own PHI is only part of this transformation. Doctors, emergency workers and other health care providers expect to be able to access critical PHI from a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone when it is needed to deliver care.
Where once PHI was marooned on paper after being handwritten on a clipboard, rolling carts improved access but are now all but obsolete as all types of data have become readily available to any health care provider using any device across any network from anywhere and at any time, as long as they have the proper authentication and authorization credentials.
Whether visiting patients in a hospital or even while making a good old-fashioned house call, doctors now have the same level of access to PHI wherever they may be as they would normally have from their office.
Not Just Data — Digital Radiology Tools In The Field
When it was determined that not enough women were visiting their doctor to have much-needed mammogram examinations, mammogram machines were installed on buses that could travel out into the field and offer examinations from where it was highly convenient for far many more women to take advantage and be tested.
Ambulances are now being equipped with mobile stroke units to help emergency medical personnel quickly determine whether or not a patient is having a stroke, saving countless lives by diagnosing stroke early.
These and other similar advances are changing the face of medicine, bringing the practitioner far closer to the patient and dramatically increasing the speed and efficiency at which care can be administered. That is a digital transformation we can all live with and live healthier with.