The paper aims at analyzing the article describing a potential implementation of unified cybersecurity standards for healthcare organizations. The analysis provides the rationale for choosing the topic, explores the positive influence of suggested changes in nursing practices, identifies potential difficulties and adverse effects of the proposed innovation, and discusses the role of the previous knowledge of informatics in reaching the conclusions.
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The issue of security of digital data becomes more important each year. There are two reasons for this. First, the field becomes gradually more reliant on electronic health records, digital storage media, and electronic means of data analysis for medical research. The amount of healthcare-related information which circulates the cyberspace already comprises a large share of the total data, and the trend is expected to grow. The majority of the involved data is sensitive as it contains important personal information that can be misused in a variety of ways. Simultaneously with the growing recognition of the benefits of the transition, the nursing community becomes aware of the issues associated with the innovation.
First, despite the training events organized to familiarize the staff with the new technology, there are still severe inconsistencies in performance due to poor understanding of the involved equipment and software. Second, because the system is still in the early stage of development, many design flaws exist that compromise the functionality and reliability of the electronic tools to the point where their introduction results in the decline of performance (Roski, Bo-Linn, & Andrews, 2014). Also, some of the mistakes made by the involved personnel lead to data breaches and leaks of sensitive information. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure the presence of a unified approach regulated by well-defined and modern standards (Sweeney, 2017).
Another important reason for choosing this topic is the growing threat of deliberate effort aimed at retrieving personal data. As shown by the events of recent years, the number of leaks resulting from deliberate attacks increases over time. As healthcare data becomes more common, it is reasonable to expect that individuals specializing in stealing sensitive data for profit will eventually turn their attention toward the sector. As a result, both the institution on the whole and individual staff members, including nurses, will have their reputation compromised and will lose patient trust. Therefore, the implementation of robust security measures is important for nursing as well as for the healthcare field on the whole.
Impact on Practice
The implementation of voluntary consensus standards is expected to have a predominantly positive effect on nursing practice (Sweeney, 2017). The benefits will include the increase in reliability, improved data handling, and holistic framework integration.
Reliability of Data
Currently, the majority of data that exists in electronic format is sensitive as it contains at least some information that may harm the patient in the case of the disclosure. Such a situation can be effectively addressed by security measures such as encryption and restricted access. On some occasions, such as medical trials and other types of research, the data needs to be processed to anonymize individual results while still retaining important information. On similar occasions (e.g. when some statistical data is made publicly accessible through online resources) certain information needs to remain inaccessible. Finally, a large amount of information involved in various iterations of telehealth needs to be encrypted since it can be intercepted and possibly misused (Hall & McGraw, 2014).
Tools and software solutions for all of these actions are readily available to nurses and other involved parties and are being constantly upgraded and enhanced to ensure a maximum level of protection. Nevertheless, the field lacks a unified approach to the development, which greatly slows down the progress. The encryption methods used by different software providers may vary, which means that their uniformity and compatibility is ensured only through compliance with guidelines (Ayala, 2016). Once the uniform standards are introduced, the providers will be able to create tools and algorithms which will be compatible across the institutions. This will mean better communication between different establishments and scientific bodies and, by extension, fewer inconsistencies and barriers to using data from affiliated entities. Also, decreasing the number of possible ways of data protection will lead to better resource allocation and eventually decrease the cost of equipment. For the nurses, this will mean better access to useful sources of data and a higher likelihood of implementation of innovative healthcare practices in the workplace.
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The existence of multiple approaches to ensuring data security prevents providers from creating a more consistent approach to personnel training. Once the standards are in place, they will provide additional clarity in the development of training programs and user guides for software and equipment involving the use of sensitive data. Also, the main threats and unaddressed risks can be addressed collectively and holistically rather than piecemeal, which will add to the integrity of the nurse education. In other words, such unification will eventually result in fewer errors made by the nurses and better preparedness to handle data consciously rather than automatically.
Aside from the strictly technical achievements associated with the standards discussed in the article, their implementation is expected to result in modifications of currently existing practices on a broader scale. Most likely, the changes will include employee behavior, updates of ethical standards and regulations, and improved managerial practices to strengthen the positive outcomes. In practice, it will likely lead to general improvements in efficiency, productivity, trust, and patient satisfaction.
Possible Negative Effects
The introduction of new standards may also create several undesirable outcomes. First, for the institutions that already have other standards in place, the switch will likely create the need for additional expenses on training, administrative, and managerial efforts. Since the standards are voluntary, it will be possible to opt-out of the program, but such a move will likely result in certain countermeasures such as lack of access to standards-eligible projects and partnerships. Next, depending on the scope of the changes, standardization may potentially decrease the flexibility of security solutions since the limitations make security systems more prone to deliberate attacks. It may also limit the options for security providers who may react by rising prices of their products. Most importantly, it can create additional stress for nurses during the transition period, especially in the case of poorly planned and executed one.
It should be acknowledged that most of the conclusions on the effects of standardization were reached using the knowledge of informatics, more specifically, the understanding of security issues, ethical considerations of using data, and relevant knowledge on the progress of utilizing cyber data in healthcare.
While the creation of unified standards of cybersecurity poses certain risks, such as compromised flexibility, high costs of implementation, and organizational inconsistencies, it is highly desirable for achieving long-term benefits of improved accessibility to cyber data by nursing personnel, increased ease of use, fewer barriers, a more consistent managerial framework, and, eventually, better communication across organizations and greater chances for collaboration and partnership.
Ayala, L. (2016). Cybersecurity for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Fredericksburg, VA: Apress.
Hall, J. L., & McGraw, D. (2014). For telehealth to succeed, privacy and security risks must be identified and addressed. Health Affairs, 33(2), 216-221.
Roski, J., Bo-Linn, G. W., & Andrews, T. A. (2014). Creating value in health care through big data: opportunities and policy implications. Health Affairs, 33(7), 1115-1122.
Sweeney, E. (2017). AAMI: Cybersecurity standards help manage IT risks. Web.