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Research finds that HIEs can benefit from network neutrality

July 10, 2013
Healthcare IT By LW Consulting Inc.

As patient information becomes more accessible through electronic medical records (EMRs) and health information exchanges (HIEs), it is imperative that healthcare organizations keep their systems secure. This will help them avoid federal fines and assure patients that their data will stay out of cyber criminals' hands.

Bringing on a hospital consultant who is well-trained in healthcare IT consulting can help a facility find the best security measures. Additionally, all staff members must be kept in the loop of all changes and understand how to access and operate online systems.

This is especially important as recent research shows that HIEs need to remain neutral, and not be discriminatory in content, ownership, source address and destination address. According to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, network neutrality is essential for successful HIEs, as they are similar to a utility that serves the common good.

"To be effective, the exchange of healthcare data must not be overly constrained," the report's authors concluded. "At the same time, robust infrastructure must exist to track down offenders breaking privacy rules. The successful adoption of HIEs may very well depend on the acceptance of a neutral [Nationwide Health Information Network]."

The authors added that network neutrality promotes strong security measures as it emphasizes transparency in data content, source, ownership, destination and reliance on end-to-end security associations. Such practices will also help organizations avoid HIPAA violations. 

Not all companies stand behind such practices. A FierceHealthIT article explained that AT&T, Verizon and Cisco claim that owners should be able to manage the use of online content as they see fit.

As hospitals implement more technical innovations, it is essential that they remain up-to-date on all privacy requirements and make adjustments as necessary.