Is encryption the prescription for smartphone-based medical care?

I came across an interesting survey about mobile healthcare. It seems that most smartphone users want to communicate with their doctors using their smart device.

For the survey, predictive analytics firm FICO polled 2,239 adults in 14 countries--UK, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Turkey and the United States. I found the number of respondents and countries impressive. The results give a good sense of where mobile healthcare might be headed.

The survey also found that three quarters of respondents want to be reminded of their medical appointments and 69 percent want to receive reminders about appointments and medication. More than half of respondents trust healthcare organizations with personal data.

"Mail order pharmacies are checking customer orders via mobile applications, insurers are validating policy details and medical service providers are requesting feedback on the quality of their services or managing follow-up care," says Stuart Wells, FICO's chief product and technology officer.

"Privacy is critically important and consumers are required to opt-in, but given the benefits of mobile technology in the health care field, that doesn't appear to be an impediment to adoption," Wells adds.

While the opt-in requirement might confirm that the patient wants to share the information, it does nothing to address the issue of patient data security. At least in the U.S., federal regulations are very strict about protecting patient information. The Department of Health and Human Services has levied million dollar fines on a number of healthcare organizations for failing to protect patient information.

Smartphones are not the most secure means of communications on the planet. The risk that patient-doctor communications could be intercepted by a third-party is significant. Encryption of data and phone conversations is an option, but that would be both expensive and cumbersome for both the patient and the doctor.

Smartphone users might want to talk directly with their doctor, but there are a number of patient data security hurdles to overcome to comply with U.S. law. I can imagine there are similar laws in the other countries surveyed.

So picking up your phone and talking with your doctor about your medical condition might be appealing, it might not be possible with current technology and regulations. - Fred