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Solving Healthcare Data Privacy Issues with the Contact Tracing Technology You Didn’t Know Existed and Absolutely Need

TechSource Editor

December 8, 2020  |  Cloud  •  Mobility + End User Devices  •  Telehealth

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic shattered the life of normalcy we once knew. With over 52 million cases and over 1 million deaths caused by the COVID-19 virus worldwide by November, healthcare workers, epidemiologists, country leaders and medical experts have been scrambling to scale their efforts to find a cure – or at least a way to prevent the spread of such a highly contagious disease. Because COVID is said to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, healthcare leaders have focused on preventing the spread of the virus through contact tracing. Contact tracing is the practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person as a means of controlling the spread of a communicable disease and has been used for decades by state and local health departments to slow or stop the spread of infectious diseases (not just COVID but any communicable disease or medical condition).

Contact tracing has multiple practical applications, too. Yes, it can show how an infectious disease like COVID travels from one person to the next but it can also be applied to macro-perspectives by collecting information on populations in specified groups, communities or countries. Contact tracing can be applied to answer questions like which parts of the world have the most cancer patients, what age do most people see diabetes development, and it could track morbidity rates for other issues like osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s disease. Insights like this gleaned from contact tracing have the potential to dramatically change what experts know about medical conditions across the world. How to harness this potential, however, comes down to the data.

Because contact tracing has been around for so long, it isn’t for the lack of existing technology that presents challenges for healthcare organizations to trace COVID spreading within communities. In fact, healthcare organizations have had difficulties with contact tracing long before COVID was even a blip on the radar. One of the biggest challenges is collecting user healthcare data while not violating data privacy laws set forth by HIPAA. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. So, understandably, healthcare organizations need to figure out a way to collect data on its users while also ensuring those users’ privacy to their healthcare information.

Other significant challenges organizations face today are the time and cost of implementing such contact tracing technology. According to a report by American Hospital Association (AHA), our nation’s hospitals and health systems experienced a total loss at least $323.1 billion so far in 2020 because of the pandemic. Leading contributors to these ongoing losses is the decline in patient levels and a decrease of employment by more than 1 million jobs, according to a report by the National Bureau of Labor. Furthermore, these losses are expected to drive significant structural changes in the U.S. healthcare system—including financial insolvency, reduced staffing and wage levels, lower bed capacities and fewer sites of care (with the number of rural hospitals alone at risk of closing in 2020 estimated at 700 by the National Rural Healthcare Association). With such financial challenges and the lack of resources to dedicate to such a project, implementing this technology – however useful it may be – simply isn’t feasible for some organizations who want to remain afloat to make it out of this pandemic alive.

That’s when Alveras, LLC, an advisory market development firm, realized they knew the trifecta of companies that could solve these hurdles for the healthcare industry: Iron Bow Technologies, Knowmadics and Diveplane Corporation. Iron Bow Technologies is a telehealth device and service provider that creates digital health solutions for both patients and healthcare leaders. Diveplane Corporation is a computer software company that provides AI-powered, cloud-based machine learning technology that creates powerful artificial intelligence decision-making models based on historical data observations. Knowmadics, a software company that solves complex device and data problems quickly and securely, developed a platform to connect enterprise solutions and IoT devices in single unified workspace. While Knowmadics and Diveplane are new to the commercial healthcare sector, they each bring hundreds of thousands of operating hours from providing their technology to the federal government with rock-solid success. Combined with the decades of experience and industry leadership from Iron Bow, this technology platform they created has potential to rapidly revolutionize the healthcare industry for contact tracing – and not just for COVID tracing but for any kind of traceable information. This solution is able to go above and beyond COVID tracking and into other applications mentioned earlier because these companies have figured out a way of solving the healthcare data privacy hurdle while also offering their solution at an affordable price and quick-to-deploy timeline.

Earlier this year, these three companies created the AWARE Contact Tracing solution that takes Knowmadics’ platform and Diveplane’s data capabilities to provide a secure, HIPAA compliant, quick-to-implement contact tracing exchange that is distributed to healthcare organizations through Iron Bow’s multicloud service.  Essentially, this technology is a platform that lives in a private, secure network that captures patient data, copies it to a “twin” within the system, and then strips the personally identifiable information (PII) so that it’s safely shareable without HIPAA violations. This data synthesis service is based on an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system that creates a new dataset to look, act and feel realistic for the purposes of data modeling and analysis, but does not contain any PII from the original data. It can also take multiple data inputs from contact tracers, location information, patient symptoms and other information to provide a synthetic version for a wide range of consumers including public health departments, COVID command centers and emergency responders.

If this technology sounds powerful it’s because it is; and the benefits of this solution are three fold:

  1. Interoperability

What makes this technology different than other data collection tools on the market is that it can connect to any device an organization designates, be it people, medical devices or a phone. Unlike EHR implementations, which are costly, expensive and time consuming, AWARE threads into already-existing technology via Iron Bow’s multicloud service to cut down on disruption, time and resources that would be dedicated to implementation. Furthermore, the solution automatically comes with Iron Bow’s award-winning, industry-leading services to assist with any issues throughout the lifecycle of the solution.

  1. Flexibility

With the shuttering of small, rural clinics and social distancing measures enacted, COVID is forcing a revamp of how providers deliver care. AWARE broadens the scope of care because of its unique ability to connect to phones – something more people have access to than proximity to a major medical center. Even when weak cell phone service goes out (because of weather or distance to a tower) the AWARE solution still gathers all trackable information and sends it back to the network once the user is back in range of cell service.

  1. Fraud Detection

A functionality that comes built into the AWARE platform beyond the contact tracing is its ability to detect fraud within the data it collects. The advanced artificial intelligence identifies fraud patterns deep in data that’s very difficult to find and, because this is baked into the platform, does this automatically so as to cut down on the time it takes for healthcare organizations to even identify these anomalies, saving the organization both time and money by avoiding the ensuing consequences all together.

While the immediate results of these benefits are obvious, if you’re part of any healthcare organization trying to survive in the days of COVID, you are most likely strategizing for long term. Besides the immediate improvements to medical care and telehealth, AWARE is also a potentially huge revenue generator. In a time when healthcare organizations’ best source of revenue is data, this technology is absolutely critical to recouping lost dollars and regenerating revenue to the bottom line – from the smallest to the largest healthcare organizations. Collecting this information, organizing it in a HIPAA-compliant way, and then expanding scope of service to under-reached areas means more patients being served while increasing interoperability, tracing contacts to stem the spread of diseases, and maintaining security and patient privacy.

AWARE Contact Tracing platform is the next tool to revolutionize healthcare for these days of COVID but also beyond the pandemic. It has the potential to assist healthcare organizations for decades to come because of the way it harnesses sensitive information. It’s a data treasure trove for leaders to garner actionable insights to make groundbreaking steps forward in regards to today’s toughest healthcare challenges by cutting through the fog of data ambiguity and revealing the root of issues. Healthcare organizations that are looking for long term solutions and strategies for revenue generation have finally found their missing puzzle piece in AWARE Contact Tracing technology.

For more information on AWARE and its capabilities, visit our website.

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