Will Apple's iCloud Misfortune Affect Healthcare’s Apprehension to “Go Digital?”

We’ve all heard about the iCloud security breach that allowed hackers to gain access to private – very private – photos and videos of several well-known actresses.  For entities that rely heavily on technology to store and maintain critically important data, breaches like this can be downright scary.  There’s no doubt that Apple’s security measures and technologies are top-notch.  Crises like this bring acute attention to a widely underestimated issue: as our dependency on technology grows, so too does everyone’s need to be prepared in preventing and managing situations where disaster rears its ugly head.

While iCloud isn’t necessarily quite pertinent to how the healthcare industry functions, situations like the recent breach make it painfully clear that data security is a serious, ubiquitous issue. Healthcare is already notorious for being behind the times in terms of technological integration and “going digital.” So this bears the question: will security and privacy issues add to the healthcare's apprehension and the industry's underlying fear of jumping on the bandwagon to go digital?

Embracing the Digital Shift

The possibility of compromised data and privacy violation should never be disregarded. But that doesn’t mean that healthcare entities should shy away from new technologies altogether simply because they may pose unique risks.  Embracing technology is often a make-or-break factor.  With the immense shift to all things digital, healthcare brands will miss out on some incredible opportunities if they stick their heads in the sand.  Instead of avoiding new opportunities, companies should approach digitization and social media with a plan.

Health IT Is Critical

According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the healthcare landscape is in the midst of what appears to be an unavoidable paradigm shift.  Healthcare’s dependence on highly trained and autonomous care providers is being met with growing 21st century challenges.  These challenges include increasing needs for patient and doctor knowledge and collaboration, the need for greater patient evaluation, consistent difficulties in meeting quality of care expectations, and increasing needs for new ways to manage chronic disease.  The study states, “A new paradigm could be considerably more reliant on health information technology because that offers the best option for addressing our challenges and creating a foundation for future medical progress.”

The Name of the Game Is Strategy

So what’s the solution?  Strategy.  Healthcare companies need to embrace digital opportunities in a smart way.  They should adopt and integrate modern practices while putting in their due diligence toward risk management strategies, crisis management plans, social media polices and consistent monitoring and analysis.  Instead of being afraid of the unknown, companies should move forward into the digital landscape with the foundation of thorough research, a holistic management plan, and an eye that never closes.

Healthcare Risk Management

Developing risk management plans is critical for all companies, especially those that collect and maintain private patient data.  Risk management involves both proactive and reactive components, as well as a number of platforms through which the company functions and communicates.  In addition to guidelines for internal management of critical data, healthcare companies should have explicit internal and external procedures and policies for web-based communication like social media platforms that encourages employee and customer engagement, but also protects stakeholders.  When devising a social media strategy, a core team should outline specific goals and audiences, and each post should be carefully crafted to meet these guidelines.

Data Breach Response Plan

One of the most important factors to consider is a data breach response plan.  When devising a data breach response plan, healthcare companies face a careful balance between federal and state laws like HITECH and HIPAA.  Companies should designate an incident team leader, as well as a back-up leader.  Emergency contacts should include key players in legal, HR, IT, and PR/marketing.  An internal reporting system will help to ensure that all important individuals are notified and mobilized immediately.  Download Experian’s Best Practices for a Healthcare Data Breach for detailed guidelines.

Successful companies don’t allow fear to take over and ignore unique opportunities to create value and growth through technology and social media. However, it’s crucial for healthcare brands to approach the 21st century’s challenges with a solid plan and swift execution.  By doing so, companies define and position their brands as competent, trustworthy, and dependable.  In today’s flooded technological landscape, healthcare companies that apply these practices can position themselves for success by connecting with stakeholders and breaking through the healthcare haze.

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