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CORRESPONDENCE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 641-642

Use of mobile applications in neurosurgery: Are we compromising on patient confidentiality and privacy?


1 Rural Medical College, Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences, Loni, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India
3 Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Sawangi, Wardha, India
4 Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Tx 77555-1150, USA

Date of Web Publication4-Aug-2015

Correspondence Address:
Piyush Kalakoti
Rural Medical College, Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences, Loni, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.162139

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How to cite this article:
Kalakoti P, Sharma K, Harsh V, Haque FA, Veeranki SP. Use of mobile applications in neurosurgery: Are we compromising on patient confidentiality and privacy?. Neurol India 2015;63:641-2

How to cite this URL:
Kalakoti P, Sharma K, Harsh V, Haque FA, Veeranki SP. Use of mobile applications in neurosurgery: Are we compromising on patient confidentiality and privacy?. Neurol India [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Nov 12];63:641-2. Available from: http://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2015/63/4/641/162139


Dear Editor,

We read with interest the article by Thapa et al. [1] describing the use of Viber© mobile application as a convenient and cost effective tool for communication in neurosurgery. The authors demonstrate their findings in a neurosurgical emergency setting, enabling a remotely located off-duty consultant neurosurgeon to guide on-duty residents in decision-making, and subsequent management, by receiving neuroimaging of the patient across Viber© . Like Viber© , numerous applications are available on Android, Windows, IOS, and other operating systems that enhance communication, and permit the exchange of digital media over electronic devices with equal or better efficiency than Viber© alone. Although the authors emphasize the importance of mobile applications in decision-making and disease management from a physician's perspective, several concerns related to ethical practices in medicine are not taken into consideration.

Despite the potential advantages as outlined above, the use of mobile applications in exchanging patient information as depicted by Thapa et al. [1] could potentially pose a threat to patient confidentiality and privacy via lack of authentication, encryption, and use of public Wi-Fi or unsecure cellular networks. This is our primary concern. [2] In addition, the risks associated with the use of such application modalities in health care management for exchange of patient information, as briefly explained by the authors, might outweigh its benefits. These risks may be in concordance with the violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. [3] Exchanging or promoting the use of protected health care information (PHI) over unsecure servers and applications with lenient privacy policies raises security concerns over electronic transfer of PHIs without informed consent from the patients.

An effective way to prevent this could be setting up integrated picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and secured online servers at universities or health care locations. By enabling password-protected login details unique to each health care provider, PACS and such encrypted servers could address the issues of patient confidentiality, yet enable rapid communication between health care professionals through a virtual private network (VPN) access. Although the cost of setting such encrypted servers may seem expensive initially, especially in developing countries, this could essentially be worthwhile in the era of health care accountability. At the dawn of the Internet age, exchange of critical patient information over protected servers rather than over mobile applications could essentially safeguard patient privacy and interest.

 
  References Top

1.
Thapa A, Shrestha D, Shrestha D, Giri S. Use of viber app: A fast, easy and cost effective method of communication in neurosurgery. Neurol India 2013;61:610-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
2.
Barrett C. Healthcare Providers May Violate HIPAA1 by Using Mobile Devices to Communicate with Patients. ABA Health eSource. 2011;8:2. Available from: http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/aba_health_esource_home/aba_health_law_esource_1110_barrett.html  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-191).  Back to cited text no. 3
    



This article has been cited by
1 Mobile Apps and Neurosurgery
Piyush Kalakoti,Tanmoy Maiti,Kanika Sharma,Hai Sun,Anil Nanda
World Neurosurgery. 2016; 92: 571
[Pubmed] | [DOI]



 

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