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How Cameras Took Smartphones from a Data Security Risk to an Interoperability Must-Have

Doctor using mobile phone

HIMSS Interoperability Showcase

Can you believe it was only in 2007, with the introduction of the iPhone and “apps,” that people began to realize the potential in their mobile phones?

Walking through the halls of any healthcare facility now, you will likely note the presence of smartphones everywhere. Clinicians and administrators, like all of us, have become accustomed to the convenience of sending and receiving information via their mobile phones. So, what can be done to take these devices from a data security risk to an invaluable interoperability must-have?

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Caught on Camera

The camera on the phone in your pocket has limitless potential to help or hurt patients and healthcare organizations if the pictures you’re taking aren’t obtained and handled appropriately.

Let’s say you’ve done your due diligence and your patient has consented to photography of a tumor being removed in the operating room. You take a photo nicely detailing the size of the tumor and proceed with the procedure. Maybe you intend to share this photo only between members of the care team, but what about that pesky auto-backup cloud feature? When you delete the photo, will it ever truly be gone? And don’t you need the ability to integrate this form of clinical data back into your electronic health record (EHR) for ongoing clinical decision support and historical context? Where’s the interoperability between your camera roll and the patient’s medical record?

Now, you can bridge the gap between your mobile device and your EHR via new digital health innovations like secure texting platforms that leverage your mobile phone’s camera, but never accesses your personal camera roll. When you launch this platform, the photos taken are stored behind your firewall, and from there they can be securely messaged to others or uploaded directly to a patient’s EHR.

Such advancements in digital health innovation have created opportunities for interoperability between a mobile phone and your source of truth – the EHR. Photos of wound healing, videos of a patient’s gait in physical therapy, audio files of speech therapy milestones, none of these benefit the patient until we introduce them to the EHR and open up the possibilities of multi-disciplinary care, review and research.

David S. Bastawros, DPM, CWS-P, medical director of Limb Preservation and Wound Management at Baylor Scott & White Health described the need for clinicians across the continuum of care to have access to patient images via the EMR: “Being able to store photos of wound healing stages and treatments into the patient’s medical record is essential. Having this in the EMR is not only a form of interoperability that benefits physicians and patients alike, it also allows for better collaboration between care teams.”

Know Before You Buy

Collectively, we can raise the community knowledge base on these industry risks and opportunities by participating in conversations. By doing this, we can steer our industry in the direction it needs to go: Away from data security risks and towards the sharing of critical information in a secure interoperable manner that puts actionable information in the hands of the care teams that need it most.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

Originally published February 27, 2018, updated July 23, 2018