The Healthcare Industry Is Going Paperless And Mobile To Serve Patients Better – What Does This Mean For Your Privacy?

SAFE-BioPharma is the industry IT standard developed to transition he biopharmaceutical and healthcare communities to paperless environments.

The SAFE-BioPharma standard is used to verify and manage digital identities involved in electronic transactions and to apply digital signatures to electronic documents. SAFE-BioPharma was developed by a consortium of biopharmaceutical and related companies with participation from the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

Today, I’ll be interviewing Safe-BioPharma CEO Mollie Shields-Uehling to get more insight on this issue.

What are some of the biggest changes that will affect the healthcare industry in 2011?

From an IT perspective, we expect that 2011 will be a watershed year in migrating paper away from medicine and healthcare.

For the first time, millions of licensed medical personnel in the US will be able to download to their cell phones and other electronic devices digital credentials that are uniquely linked to their proven identities. They will give physicians and others the ability to participate in systems that allow controlled access to electronic medical records.

These credentials also will facilitate application of legally-binding digital signatures to electronic forms, prescriptions and other documents.

What are some of the biggest opportunities and pitfalls associated with mobile computing in the healthcare industry?

In order to comply with a host of patient privacy and other regulations, it is essential that a system can trust the cyber-identity of its participants.

Digital credentials that comply with the SAFE-BioPharma standard are uniquelylinked to the individual’s proven identity.They are also interoperable with US Federal Government credentials and those of other cyber-communities.  As such, they mitigate legal, regulatory and other business risk associated with electronic transactions.

When used to apply digital signatures to electronic documents, the signature is legally enforceable, non-repudiable, and instantly auditable.

How will digital credentials help licensed medical professionals offer better services to patients?

Because they establish identity trust within a cyber-context, digital credentials eliminate paper-reliance (think of the forms, records, etc. when you see a doctor) and accelerate processes associated with patient care. Patient privacy will be better protected. Patient records will be available across different health systems. The prescription-issuance process will no longer be paper-based.

What is the current state of digital signatures and other forms of electronic credentials in the medical industry, and how do you see this changing in the next few years?

Use of digital credentials in health care is nascent. However, in a move designed to advance electronic health data sharing, in January VerizonBusiness will begin issuing medical identity credentials to 2.3 million U.S. physicians, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners.

This first-of-its kind step will enable U.S. health care professionals to meet federal requirements contained in the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that call for the use of strong identity credentials when accessing and sharing patient information electronically beginning in mid-2011.