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Data breaches and shaky future of meaningful use on DirectTrust's 2016 prediction list

Many of this year’s most-discussed health IT topics will figure prominently in next year’s healthcare technology landscape, though some of those conversations will take on a new tone.

The third stage of the meaningful use program may be stalled or cancelled in 2016, according to predictions released by DirectTrust, a nonprofit group that promotes interoperability. The meaningful use program achieved its chief goal of encouraging widespread implementation of EHRs, but some healthcare organizations, such as CHIME, stated that many providers are still attesting to the second stage of meaningful use and that it would be premature to deem stage 2 a success.

If meaningful use is sliding down the health IT industry’s priority list, then security might ascend and take its place. Security is the primary source of worry for many healthcare providers, partially due to the reputational and financial expenses of sustaining a data breach. That attention to data breach prevention will pay off in 2016, as DirectTrust believes the growth of electronic health data exchange will cause a similar spike in security measures devised to protect those transactions.

Major data breaches beset health insurance company Anthem, Inc. and provider UCLA Health this year, accounting for an estimated 80 million and 4.5 million people affected, respectively. The Anthem breach didn’t expose the health or financial information of patients and employees, but it revealed other personal data, such as phone and Social Security numbers. UCLA Health wasn’t alone in potentially failing to insulate the health data of millions of patients; Premera Blue Cross experienced an attack that involved the data of 11 million people. With all these breaches occurring when data is in the hands of security professionals, it’s fair to wonder whether patients should be provided greater access to their data.

The first item on DirectTrust’s list of 2016 trends is the inclusion of patients in the health data exchange process. DirectTrust stated more patients will soon have access to their health information and will be free to move their data wherever they please. Patients that want paper copies of their health records may be discouraged from doing so because of the high costs attached to that process. Some states charge more than $90 for printing 75 pages of health records.

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