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Innovation

Will security paranoia kill wireless health IT?

Frost & Sullivan's wireless analysts can come up with all the scary scenarios they want, but where is the real danger? The danger is you're raising the cost of care.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Frost & Sullivan is out with a piece praising the potential of wireless technologies in health IT, but warning of security concerns.

Yesterday's piece about WellAWARE is a good example of what's possible.

Short-haul wireless links monitor patients without their having to wear anything. Cellular phone calls can alert caregivers to problems, and wireless data links can offer specifics.

Without wireless technologies such miracles would not be possible. But paranoia over security could kill such applications in the crib.

Frost & Sullivan's wireless analysts can come up with all the scary scenarios they want, but where is the real danger?

The real danger is you're raising the cost of care. The report by Jayashree Rajagopal and Luke Thomas are especially wary of such technologies as Bluetooth and WiFi, which they insist must get expensive security upgrades before being trialed:

"Such security features will enable cellular technology to gain a competitive advantage over various wireless alternatives as cellular technologies operate in the licensed band providing guaranteed quality of service," remarks Thomas. "This is not the case with unlicensed technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) and RFID."

Nonsense. Having carriers capture and up-sell all wireless medical data transfers is not going to provide real quality improvements. It's just going to price them out of the range of many patients.

For someone like the late, great Karl Malden (who passed away yesterday at 97) there might be value in a TMZ seeing the late alerts of his failure. It might be a scoop to know about the problems of the rich and/or famous.

But what would they be getting and how would they get it? Let's get real. Intercept a data call and all you get is data, without context. Intercepting and decoding a digital phone call (and all cell calls are digital) is more difficult, and you have to pick out just the right needle in an awfully large haystack.

That's because we start getting fancy with security and proof of concept through Quality of Service (QoS) agreements.

The plain fact is that most of the people with motive to snoop on our medical conditions remain insurers and employers. Both have the same motive, limiting exposure by cutting off needed care, in the present or in the future.

Insurers have already offered to stop running risk pools and denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, part of their effort to prevent government competition.

Most fears, in other words, are becoming groundless. The rest can be treated as the exceptions they are, and punished accordingly.

Paranoia is no longer necessary

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