Prevent-dirty-patient-data-with-RightPatient

Dirty Patient Data Can Have Severe Consequences for Healthcare Providers

The US healthcare system has always been facing problems that stopped it from realizing its full potential. These issues are longstanding barriers to providing immaculate healthcare services to patients, and thus affect healthcare outcomes for all involved. One of these issues has been the “dirty” patient data accumulating within EHR systems over the years. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing even more issues like the unprecedented financial strain, layoffs, restructuring and so on, providers need to ensure that the patient information within their facilities is accurate, consistent and relevant. Let’s look at what unclean patient data is, how it affects patients and providers and how RightPatient can ensure the cleanest patient data with accurate patient identification.

Prevent-dirty-patient-data-with-RightPatient

Patient data

A brief definition

In the simplest terms, patient data refers to a single patient’s medical information – medications, medical history, vitals, illnesses and so on. Such data is critical in making informed decisions regarding the patient in question. What should be the current or future course of action and how to best handle the needs of the patient are some common examples.

From the explanation, it is clear why clean patient data is important for both caregivers and their recipients. Let’s look at the other side of the coin: dirty data.

“Dirty” patient information

By now, it should be quite clear what dirty data means. Whenever the data is inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent, obsolete or corrupt, it is considered “dirty”. Unclean patient data can lead to a lot of problems for any given healthcare provider. It impacts everyday operations, makes effective data sharing difficult and impacts healthcare outcomes, among other issues. Let’s have a more detailed look at the common ones.

Effects of unclean patient data

Inaccuracy and inefficient operations

Imagine if a patient goes to their healthcare provider for a checkup. The registrar types in the patient’s name: several medical records pop up on the screen, all pertaining to the same patient. Understandably, this can confuse the registrar. They are faced with a difficult choice: either go through all the patient records and find out the accurate one or create a new one entirely. The former case will take up a lot of time, while the latter will just create another duplicate medical record within the system. Both of these are consequences of having unclean data within the system.

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Huge losses

According to Gartner, unclean data can cost an organization anywhere from $9.7 to $14.2 million. For US healthcare providers, however, it’s an entirely different figure. AHIMA stated that duplicate medical records can cost up to $40 million for any given provider, while a health system having several facilities can house up to 20% duplicate records.

Imagine if a patient is treated with another patient’s medical information. When the record holder gets the bill for services they did not use, they’ll simply contact their insurance provider regarding the matter. This will lead to a denied claim. Thus, inaccurate data can lead to denied claims as well – costing around $4.9 million on average for the average health system.

Patient safety is compromised

One of the biggest issues of unclean data is that it impacts patient safety. One patient will receive inaccurate and even dangerous treatment because they are being treated based on an entirely different patient’s medical record. Even if it is the same patient, if there are multiple records under their name, each record will have inconsistent and incomplete information about the patient, leading to improper care, medications and procedures. All in all, healthcare outcomes will not be as expected as patient safety and quality of care is jeopardized severely. This can affect a provider’s ratings as well. Patients will not be happy if they are not receiving unreliable healthcare services. Thus, clean data is critical to improving quality and safety in healthcare.

Non-compliance issues

This one is quite new. However, most healthcare providers know this and are working on it: e-notifications support.

The CMS rule mandates that all caregivers having EHR systems must ensure they support e-notifications by May 1st, 2021. During any ADT event, the provider needs to send e-notifications to the patient’s caregivers, whether they be established primary care practitioners, post-acute providers & suppliers or any other entity primarily responsible for the patient’s care. This is done to boost positive healthcare outcomes and improve care coordination. If the data is unclean, providers will end up sending false alerts either to the wrong provider or the wrong patient.

In any case, unclean data will cause non-compliance issues, penalties and might even jeopardize CMS provider agreements.

Lower ROI

Health systems and hospitals have been investing significantly in population health management, big data, analytics and similar projects they find promising. The efficacy of these systems depends on high-quality data being fed into them. When data is corrupted due to duplicate and overlay records, those investments are diluted, leading to lower ROI. 

Keep patient data clean with RightPatient

One of the best ways to ensure that patient data integrity is maintained is by identifying the accurate patient record from the get-go. That’s where we can help.

RightPatient is the leading patient identification platform that ensures data integrity is maintained within EHRs. It is a touchless, photo-based platform used by leading healthcare providers. 

By making sure that you identify your patients accurately every time, you can avoid duplicate medical records, prevent medical identity theft, eliminate financial issues related to dirty data, improve patient safety and quality of care. Also, you can send out proper e-notifications to the accurate caregivers, eliminating any non-compliance penalties.

By ensuring accurate and consistent data that can be used by the aforementioned investments (population health management, big data, analytics, etc.), RightPatient improves ROI for healthcare providers, creating a win-win scenario for everyone.

Contact us now to know how RightPatient works and how we can help you ensure the cleanest data via positive patient identification.

Identifying-patients-correctly-is-possible-with-RightPatient

CMS Compliance Requires Identifying Patients Correctly – Are you Ensuring it? 

From the title, it is quite clear what this is about. The changes made to the Medicare CoPs (conditions of participation) have attracted attention within the US healthcare system, especially after the introduction of mandatory e-notifications during every ADT (admission, discharge, or transfer) of a patient. While providers are more focused on e-notifications, most of them forget about one very important prerequisite: identifying patients correctly. While we have already touched upon the topic regarding CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) Interoperability & Patient Access Final Rule, this time, we will focus more on the practical aspects and how patient identification is a crucial component that is absolutely necessary for e-notifications to work properly as well as CMS compliance. Without further ado, let’s dive deeper into the topic at hand.

Identifying-patients-correctly-is-possible-with-RightPatient

A brief refresher

A few changes have been made regarding the CMS Interoperability & Patient Access Final Rule. As the name suggests, it has been done to boost interoperability efforts within the caregivers of the patients. Let us look at why it is required within the healthcare system.

There are many cases where a patient is not restricted to a single healthcare provider;  especially if they have complications, multiple ailments and so on. Such patients need to visit and consult with multiple healthcare providers in order to receive the best patient care. For this to be effective, caregivers need to have access to the patient’s medical record, history, medications, vitals and other necessary information. In order to make the caregiving process seamless and boost interoperability, the Final Rule was introduced.

The “companion final rule” states that e-notifications must be sent out by healthcare providers (such as acute care, psychiatric, critical access providers, etc.) during every ADT to the appropriate recipients, i.e., the other caregivers (post-acute providers & suppliers, established primary care practitioners, or any other entity primarily responsible for the patient’s care). This rule applies to inpatient admissions as well as ED admissions. 

Who needs to ensure it?

Applicable healthcare providers are those who use digital medical records like EMR or EHR systems. They need to ensure compliance and have proper systems set up by May 1, 2021 so that they can send out e-notifications during ADTs. 

CMS-compliance-requires-accurate-patient-identification-RightPatient

While that’s a succinct summary of the most recent change in the CoPs, every healthcare provider needs to ensure that they are sending out e-notifications. Otherwise, they can face undesirable consequences such as receiving penalties for non-compliance, or worse, jeopardizing their CMS provider agreements. But how is identifying patients correctly related to CMS compliance regarding e-notifications?

Identifying patients correctly is required for CMS compliance

As previously mentioned, the CMS rule requires healthcare providers to send out notifications during ADTs. But there’s a catch.

Identifying patients correctly is quite important for e-notifications to work. Think about it: if a patient is not accurately recognized or is misidentified as a different patient, the healthcare provider risks sending alerts to the wrong caregivers. Worst of all, the provider risks that they won’t be able to answer alerts other caregivers are requesting.

Without a reliable way to identify patients, things can escalate quickly. If a provider cannot fulfill alert requests or sends too many incorrect alerts, care coordination teams will start to lose faith and miss opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Noncompliance will also incur CMS penalties, which can result in hefty fines. After COVID-19, nobody can afford such costs.

Ensure-accurate-patient-identification-with-RightPatient

While healthcare providers are busying themselves by deciding how to best implement e-notifications, they should also assess the effectiveness of their patient identity matching systems. Clearly, the former is dependent on the latter. Those who are struggling with patient identification need to upgrade their systems to futureproof, easy-to-use and hygienic ones. 

RightPatient helps identify patients correctly

We ensure that patients are always identified correctly with our industry-leading touchless biometric patient identification platform.

How it works

After making an appointment, patients receive an SMS or email to validate their identity. During this process, the patient takes a photo of their driver’s license and a selfie. RightPatient automatically matches the selfie photo with the photo on the driver’s license to ensure a proper identity match. If the patient is not already in the system, RightPatient assigns biometric credentials to the new patient.

This is how we prevent patients from registering under a different identity or medical record mix-ups. There’s no need to worry about name changes, mistakes when entering a patient’s name or other common issues. Patients are recognized with their selfies.

We have been helping prominent health systems like TGMC, CMC and CHSLI fight the battle against patient misidentification for years. With RightPatient, responsible healthcare providers can send e-notifications and comply with CMS without worrying about faulty alerts.

If we haven’t convinced you by now, why don’t you try our free trial? No gimmicks – it’s really free!

five-tips-for-preventing-medical-identity-theft-in-healthcare

5 Tips for Preventing Medical Identity Theft in Healthcare

Hospitals, medical centers, and physicians’ offices are not only places where patients should feel safe about getting the right medications, but it should be a place where they also feel safe with their sensitive information. Unfortunately, with the rise in the number of healthcare data breaches, the market is even riper for medical identity theft. Over 41 million patient records were breached in 2019 alone and the majority of them were associated with hacking or cyber attack-related incidents. 

five-tips-for-preventing-medical-identity-theft-in-healthcare

Preventing medical identity theft has been one of the top priorities, yet many organizations still rely on antiquated patient identity management solutions. Many leading hospitals, namely, Terrebonne General Medical Center and The University Healthcare System have been successful in preventing medical identity theft and benefitted in many other ways since using RightPatient. Other benefits include eliminating duplication of medical records, improving patient identity matching rates, clinical efficiency, and boosting the overall revenue cycle. But what about medical identity theft? How are patients affected by it? What are the ways for preventing medical identity theft? Let’s find out.

What is Medical Identity Theft?

Medical identity theft occurs when a fraudster uses someone else’s personally identifiable information (e.g. name, DOB, Social Security Number, health insurance number) to fraudulently receive medications or services, including attempts to falsify medical billings. The healthcare industry would have billions of dollars in surplus if all healthcare providers could prevent medical identity theft. This crime involves the fraudulent use of someone’s health insurance information to obtain reimbursement for healthcare-related services provided to a person not covered by the policy. This is one of the most common reasons for the rise in the numbers of claim denials. It affects revenue integrity and requires organizations to put in more strenuous efforts and resources to identify and resolve the problem throughout the revenue cycle management.

How are patients affected by medical identity theft?

Patients may not be able to afford the cost: Financial consequences for the victims of medical identity theft can exceed the cost of credit card fraud. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, medical identity theft can cost an average American $13,500 to resolve.

Victims may not be aware of their information being stolen: In most cases, insurers or healthcare providers rarely inform the patients about the crime. In general, victims are completely unaware of when they became a victim and learn about the theft of their credentials about three months after the crime has occurred.

Reputations can be on the line: Found in many studies, victims said that their reputation was affected because of medical identity theft due to disclosure of personal sensitive health information. Many respondents believe they missed out on good career opportunities due to identity theft. Some said it resulted in the loss of their job.

5 Tips for Preventing Medical Identity Theft

Invest in modern patient identity management technology and software

With the transition of paper-based patient’s records to electronic-based record-keeping systems, it is necessary to invest in modern technology and software for preventing medical identity theft. For better security and matching rates, many healthcare providers have adopted RightPatient – a leader in touchless biometric patient identity management solutions. With RightPatient, healthcare providers can verify patients’ identities and protect access to medical records. RightPatient does not only help in preventing medical identity theft but it also drastically improves patient matching rates and eliminates the creation of duplicate records.

Just as facial recognition or iris scanning techniques are used in smartphone devices today, this platform uses similar biometric techniques in a healthcare setting for authenticating and verifying an individual’s identity. RightPatient uses an individual’s iris pattern or photos of their face to lock their medical records. Each time a patient arrives at the continuum of care, the platform will scan their iris pattern or photos of their face to authenticate their identity and retrieve their correct medical records. With secure-log-in monitoring, fraudsters will be instantly denied when they try to gain access to medical records by assuming someone’s identity. 

Automating the patient registration and enrollment process

Automating the patient registration and enrollment process can eliminate the hassle of a long, complicated registration process, save valuable time and resources, and reduce errors at the same time. Criminals can easily obtain or use someone else’s common identifiers, such as names, SSNs, and DOB for fraudulent use. Many times common identifiers have also been the main cause of the creation of duplicate identities or record mismatching. Paper-based records are also vulnerable to how easily they can end up in the wrong hands. With RightPatient, transitioning to an automated patient enrollment system will be seamless. 

rightpatient-prevents-medical-identity-theft-and-ensures-positive-patient-experience

Streamline workflow and maintain compliance

Protected health information (PHI) is like a treasure box for cybercriminals and thieves. PHI contains valuable sensitive information and can easily be worth more than credit card numbers on the black market. This is why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to implement appropriate safeguards to better protect patients’ information so it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Maintaining compliance with HIPAA can be quite strenuous, but organizations can use HIPAA compliance software to streamline their compliance efforts and reduce administrative burden. Adopting the best security practices to limit unauthorized access or disclosure of patient information is crucial for preventing medical identity theft.

Robust bring your own device (BYOD) and network access policy

Personal devices should be secured before accessing a patient’s information across the network. A proper BYOD policy must be developed and maintained. For instance, is it safe for employees to bring company-issued devices back home? Many times, thieves get access to sensitive information when devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones get stolen from the office, home, or even from a car. Hospitals should also install a separate internet wi-fi network for visitors and patients to restrict access to the organization’s internal network. 

Educate your employees and patients and instill a culture of best privacy practice

Not all data breaches are malicious – human error is inevitable. From emailing sensitive data to the wrong person to accidentally posting on social media or leaving a laptop open, information can be disclosed in many ways. It is essential for healthcare providers to conduct proper training and educate their staff members, working in any capacity with medical information on how to handle and access PHI in an appropriate manner and identify suspicious behaviors for preventing medical identity theft. Training can be easily streamlined using applications.

Many hospitals always strive to do their best when it comes to securing patient information. The occurrence of medical identity theft is unfortunate but isn’t rare at all. Hospitals should also advise patients and encourage them to keep their sensitive information safe and be cautious when sharing sensitive information. 

Preventing Medical Identity Theft with RightPatient

Even during this COVID-19 national emergency crisis, medical identity theft is continuously becoming a great threat to the safety of patients and healthcare providers. Besides being the leader in patient identity management, RightPatient offers completely touchless biometric modules for patient identification. With RightPatient, healthcare providers can easily prevent medical identity theft and improve patient safety along with hygiene in a facility by removing physical contact, thus, limiting the spread of contagious diseases. 

patient-engagement-apps-can-reduce-hospital-readmission-rates

Patient engagement apps are reducing hospital readmission rates

According to a recent study, patient engagement technologies like patient retention apps are more likely to lead towards better healthcare outcomes. Patients who used these apps contributed to reducing hospital readmission rates compared to those patients who did not use engagement apps.

patient-engagement-apps-can-reduce-hospital-readmission-rates

Patient engagement technologies like CircleCare, a patient retention app, have shown that they aid patients having chronic diseases to visit their healthcare providers more prudently. Rather than going to the EDs (emergency departments of their hospitals and spending a significant amount of money which could be preventable, they used these patient engagement technologies to take care of themselves and also contact their physicians whenever required, regarding their health updates and asking for assistance directly within the app. The latter is much more desirable as it saves money from a preventable hospitalization and where the patients have tools provided by their healthcare providers, thus, reducing hospital readmission rates. 

According to the study, patients suffering from chronic conditions face some challenges getting a cohesive healthcare service- they need to go through several primary and supporting facilities for the full experience, thus are bombarded with different data points and care sites, which result in a disrupted and broken healthcare experience.

The research also showed that tools which provide the patients with facilities like access to their health information, tracking their activities, are helping to deliver superior quality healthcare and help the patients to stay on track regarding their post-discharge guidelines, all of which leads to only better patient outcomes.

Patient engagement tools and better patient outcomes are positively correlated- the more the use of these tools like CircleCare, the more active participation is seen from the patients, and thus, the better are the patient outcomes as hospital readmissions are fewer for these engaged patients. Even if the patients had multiple diseases, as long as they had access to the tools and were using them actively, the research showed these patients contributed to reducing hospital readmission rates. 

The research was carried out by grouping patients by their chronic conditions, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and so on. As previously mentioned, patients with chronic or complicated cases who had access to patient engagement tools were readmitted fewer times compared to those who did not have access or did not use it. 

These results show that patients are becoming health conscious than ever and are opening up to useful patient engagement tools. It is a positive outcome overall, as the patients are choosing to pursue an active and healthy lifestyle and not resort to hospital readmissions, which can be expensive and inconvenient. The study also demonstrated that unless it is too severe, the patients choose to communicate with their physicians via the engagement tools instead of opting for readmissions or similar actions. This way, they can talk about any discomfort or situations they are facing and get instant advice, which helps them save a trip to the ED. Thus, patient engagement tools are taking healthcare out of hospitals and making it accessible via mobile devices, which is very much convenient for the patients themselves. 

So, what are these patient engagement tools that are pushing healthcare to better heights? One of the prime examples is CircleCare, a patient retention app which doubles as a patient engagement app. It has all the features of a perfect patient engagement tool. CircleCare can track steps, schedule medicines reminders, record glucose level, blood pressure, and also provide a community where the patients can engage with one another for exchanging health tips- a social media for patients. Moreover, it is also a means for patients to communicate with their healthcare providers; thus, they can contact them whenever necessary, without any hassle. Once a hospital registers to the service, they direct their patients to download the app to their smartphones/tablets and register as their patients, and that’s it! Patient engagement tools like CircleCare not only help the patients to communicate with their physicians but also help them lead and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, which in turn generates improved patient outcomes and results in reducing hospital readmission rates, making it a must-have engagement tool.

Demonstrating-RightPatient-smart-app

Mobile Patient Identification with the RightPatient Smart App

Amidst the hoopla and chaos of this year’s HIMSS conference in Orlando, we introduced a new feature for our cloud-based RightPatient biometric patient identification solution: the RightPatient Smart App. This is kind of a big deal for the healthcare industry because the RightPatient Smart App has the power to turn any smartphone or tablet into a powerful patient recognition device.

In other words, this is anything but a ho-hum development in the concerted effort to adopt more modern patient ID technology. Allow me to explain…

Demonstrating-RightPatient-smart-app

As we have written about before, increased recognition of the critical importance of accurate patient identification for patient safety has played an important role in our own research and development of the RightPatient cloud biometric patient identification solution.  I don’t think I’m alone in saying that most patients see patient identification as the part of our healthcare experience that starts with sitting in front of a registrar at a healthcare facility so they can obtain our insurance information and make sure we are who we claim to be.

However, anyone who has spent time as a patient in a healthcare environment knows that most medical facilities don’t stop with establishing accurate identification at the point of registration. You may have your ID checked before medication disbursement, prior to the administration of a medical procedure, or perhaps just before surgery. This is important for patient safety, and to reduce the risk of adverse events from wrong patient procedures. 

The problem is that many patient identification mistakes are still regularly made across the healthcare industry. This can cause irreparable harm to patients and providers in many cases. Fortunately, we provide the most innovative technology in the market to solve this problem. 

Mobile-Patient-Identification-with-the RightPatient-Smart-App

For example, the RightPatient Smart App is a modern, mobile patient identification solution that fills an important void to help healthcare organizations improve compliance and patient safety. Here is a breakdown of the Smart App features and their value to patient identification in healthcare:

  • Mobile patient ID ubiquity: As mentioned earlier, the RightPatient Smart App turns any smartphone or tablet into a powerful mobile patient identification tool. Is this a big deal? Absolutely. The Smart App improves the ability of clinicians and others responsible for care administration to be responsible stewards of patient safety and compliance. It can be used as a multi-factor authentication tool along with another form of identification or act as a standalone patient ID device.  Recognize patients anywhere, anytime, with any smart device.
  • Patient photo: The Smart App matches against the patient photo that was captured by RightPatient during registration for positive identification. We have previously written about the importance of capturing high-quality patient photos and linking them to their electronic health records. RightPatient ensures that a standardized, high-quality enrollment photo is always captured. This increases the efficacy of the Smart App and ensures that providers have images that they can rely on for clinical context.
  • Identifying unconscious patients: There are few things in healthcare more risky than treating an unconscious patient without access to their medical history. The RightPatient Smart App allows clinicians to easily identify unconscious patients through their smartphone to retrieve the patient’s medical record. The Smart App opens the door for accurate patient identification in traditional and non-traditional settings (e.g. – oncology, medical records release, EMTs, home health) – places where perhaps verifying a patient’s identity is required but may not have traditionally been on the compliance radar. The Smart App fills in the patient ID compliance holes that exist in a healthcare organization – enabling higher levels of patient safety and helping to reduce medical errors and risk.

Medical errors caused by patient misidentification will continue to rise with increased data sharing and human error. In fact, the ECRI institute recently included patient identification errors in its most recent annual top-10 list of patient safety concerns. Powered by the RightPatient cloud platform, the Smart App will strengthen patient safety, reduce risk, and more effectively humanize the healthcare experience – a critical element of improving patient satisfaction and empathetic care delivery. Design and development of this new feature was a direct result of our 15 years of experience in biometric technology, listening to the needs of our customers, and delivering a practical solution that increases the power and reach of our industry-leading patient identification technology. You asked. We listened.

Have questions about the RightPatient Smart App? Drop us an email at info@rightpatient.com or visit here to request a free demo.

data centers in healthcare

Technology In The Medical Field: How Data Centers Have Transformed The Industry

Technology In The Medical Field: How Data Centers Have Transformed The Industry

The advent of data centers has helped the healthcare industry connect with the rapid rise in digitization. Photo courtesy of pexels.com)

The following guest post was submitted by Kara Masterson.

While hospitals and health care centers once used paper records only, today’s clinics and hospitals use almost entirely electronic health records, including digital scans, online drug records and web-based diagnostics. All of these technologies are hidden in the data center, which is typically a large building on or away from the campus. These data centers have certainly changed the face of health care.

They Allow for Seamless Patient Records

Data centers make it much easier for clinics and hospitals center to share patient records. For example, someone who has completed a medical technologist online program and who is studying blood samples in one part of the country can upload test results to a doctor across the country, and the doctor can then store the results in the data center.

They Speed Up Health Care

Because patient data is kept in one centralized area, health care can be sped up from the moment one steps in the emergency room until he or she is discharged. Doctors no longer have to wait to treat a patient until they receive and look through a lengthy patient chart. In addition, doctors who are at home can view how their patients are doing via records and results on data centers.

They Improve Patient Outcomes

According to healthit.gov, electronic health records significantly improve patient outcomes in numerous ways. They keep new doctors from prescribing medications that would interact with other prescriptions. They keep a close eye on patient allergies, and they automatically bring up warnings for doctors to see on certain patient diagnoses. This is particularly important in the emergency room setting.

They Help with Mobile Health

According to Exscribe doctors are increasingly taking advantage of data centers and electronic health records to communicate with and even treat their patients using mobile technology. They can communicate via health records and check test results online. This is particularly important for doctors practicing in remote and rural settings.

Data centers have taken all of the information that doctors, nurses and other health care workers used to have to dig for and have put it at their fingertips. With a few keystrokes and clicks, clinicians can know a patient’s health history, find out if there are any potential drug interactions, regulate a pacemaker and diagnose a patient who is miles away from them. Certainly in the next decade or two, even more tremendous changes will come to the health industry thanks to impressive data centers.

About the author: Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

wearable devices are a threat to patient safety

Is Your Wearable Health Device A Risk to Your Privacy?

Is Your Wearable Health Device A Risk to Your Privacy?

Should patients be concerned about their privacy when using connected health devices? (Photo courtesy of FreePik.com)

The following guest post on wearables and patient privacy was submitted by Joseph Mack.

It seems every time you turn around these days someone is staring at their wrist to check their vitals on their smartwatch or wearable health device. You see them at the gym, on the local hiking trails, and you see them on your coworkers at work. They’re popular items and that’s because more people are recognizing the benefits of a focus on a healthy lifestyle and these devices can help you take it to the next level. That’s not to say they don’t raise any concerns and we’re going to take a look at why you should be exercising a little caution when you wear one.

The Benefits of Wearables

Information is power so having access to real time health data can be of significant benefit to you. There’s no point in being an ostrich with your head in the sand. If you have things you need to improve in your life why not get out in front of the problem? A wearable health device can help you do this.

Wearable health devices can track your heart rate, measure your activity levels, and monitor your sleep patterns. All of these things are vital to good health and understanding patterns can help to identify problems early so that you can make adjustments in your life that can improve your health.
Before the advent of wearable health devices we tended to rely on our healthcare providers heavily to monitor our health and identify any potential concerns. The problem with this system was that we usually didn’t find out about health concerns before we were already at risk. The data our wearable devices collect can catch issues before they become a real issue and reduce our personal stress levels.

Popular Devices and their Risks

Some of the most popular wearable health devices on the market today are those produced by Fitbit. They offer various devices at different price points and they are generally benign with the information simply being shared to an app. In fact, you can share your data over a Wi-Fi connection without ever having to connect with the internet. You have a lot of control over what data you actually share and while any information stored on your smartphone is potentially at risk the risk is minimal in this case.

For devices such as the Zephyr Anywhere BioPatch things are not so black and white. This device can measure a whole host of biometric information which can be ideal for the athlete looking to improve their performance, but all of that information is shared to a remote device or app and that information is vulnerable. The determined hacker can easily access a lot of sensitive health information that could be used against you by health insurance providers and potential or existing employers.

Who Has Access to Your Data?

When you share any information to your smartphone from your wearable health device that information can potentially be accessed by the company that manufacturers your device and your phone company. This is of particular concern if you’re using various cloud services that these devices offer. Those cloud services may be convenient, but any time you use one you’re exposing yourself to a certain level of risk.

It’s a good idea to read your end user licence agreement (EULA) carefully. There may be a clause in there that allows them to share your data with third parties without your knowledge or consent. It’s always a good idea to know and understand your rights. While the clauses in your EULA may seem relatively benign you should always do your homework. If you can have a look at the EULA of a device before you buy it even better!

A report by the American University and the Center for Digital Democracy found that the fragmented healthcare sector currently fails to protect the private information collected by health wearables. Many of this information has been collected by Big Data, and has the potential to offer many benefits as more data can help optimize treatments. However there can be scary repercussions of sharing this information without proper regulations.


How Could Your Own Data Be Used Against You?

We’ve already touched upon it briefly, but it bears repeating – be very cautious when using any type of cloud service associated with a device. As surprising as it may seem, the security of information is a bit of an afterthought when it comes to wearable devices. When you use one you’re gathering a lot of information about yourself that could easily become public record. There are cases where company health insurance providers have denied coverage to employees because of data collected on their own devices. It may be best to keep the data you’re collecting to yourself.

The other thing to keep in mind is that when you share your data online it may be stored in multiple locations over time. These different layers of data can be hard to track and even when you think you’ve deleted information that you’ve shared online there’s a good chance it can still be accessed. With some devices it’s not easy to delete any data that’s been saved – if it’s possible at all. It’s always best to understand what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to anything.

Some Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Now that we’ve discussed some of the potential dangers of wearable health devices it’s time to take a step back and look at the positive sides. These devices can help you improve your approach to your overall health by keeping you focused and informed. They key is to understand the privacy issues associated with any device before you purchase one and try to select a device that provides you with the most control over your information.
If you have to spend a bit more for a more secure device wait until you can afford it and opt for the more secure device. If there is firmware that can be updated make sure it’s up to date as security patches can be vital to securing your information. Owning a wearable health device can be a great thing as long as you understand how to use it while protecting your information at the same time.

This is a guest post by Joseph Mack from smarthomeSAGE, a tech blog that analyzes the impact that smart home technology (such as video doorbells on home life).