When stay-at-home orders were put in place throughout the country, people had to work remotely and connect with others through video chatting. This change in our everyday routines has also affected how we approach medicine. New technology from the medical technology company, Butterfly Network, allows people to give themselves at home ultrasounds while connecting to a doctor via video call.
This advancement gives doctors the chance to detect signs of COVID-19 in the lungs of a patient without the patient leaving their home. There are many advantages to this development, especially with the new social distancing etiquette we are now following. However, this type of exam produces protected health information (PHI) that should be securely stored by the healthcare facility administering the exam.
How a Remote Ultrasound Works
The ultrasounds remote, called a Butterfly iQ, is already being used in 20 countries and are used by hospitals in the United States. Ultrasound machines traditionally used high-frequency sound waves to look into the human body. This latest innovation brings all that technology into an ultrasound wand that connects to an iPhone.
On the other end, a physician guides the user through the process and helps them probe correctly in specific areas of the chest. The doctor on the other end can see the visual of the ultrasound using video software from the Butterfly Network. The ultrasound wand and smartphone are connected to a clinician’s computer, who may be anywhere in the world. The doctor can move and rotate the augmented reality signs and describe to the user how to move the wand as they see what the patient sees.
The image of the ultrasound is shown to a doctor in real-time alongside the video coming from the patient’s smartphone. This offers the physician a way to see both perspectives during the exam. During the exam, the doctor is searching for irregularities within the patient’s lungs to find any traces of possible COVID-19.
Benefits and Downfalls of the Technology
Having this technology in the hands of an average user or even a team of nurses who are in a separate area from the doctors, ensures ease-of-use and helps doctors to complete these examinations more efficiently. Also, the wand is easier to disinfect when dealing with a large group of patients like those seen coming into the hospitals during the pandemic. If a trouble area is seen during the ultrasound, a doctor can record short videos and images for further inspection.
It requires fewer healthcare workers, which means more people are available to help other patients. The device itself is less bulky and less expensive than a full ultrasound machine as well. With all these positives, it is important to consider how doctors will be storing the images and videos they take during the ultrasound. With PHI being transmitted remotely, there are more chances for that data to go unsecured or be wrongly collected by one of the parties involved.
Storing PHI in Times of Trouble and Beyond
This technology was originally reserved for research and has only been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to aid during the pandemic. However, this type of medical innovation is only one example of how medicine will be changing after the pandemic passes. People will need to think about protecting data in all situations, especially in a remote situation where proper storage may not be available.
When a doctor receives images or videos from the exam, they need to immediately put that information on a hardware encrypted device. This will protect the patient’s privacy and ensure data concerning someone’s health during a pandemic is readily available to help them get the right treatment.
Our SecureDrive BT USBs are hardware encrypted flash drives that are portable and HIPAA compliant. The physician can authenticate using a mobile app using a password and biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition. The device itself has features like step-away AutoLock, 2-factor authentication, and remote wipe in the event it becomes lost or stolen. It is also remote management ready with geo- and time-fencing to restrict device access to predetermined times and places.
The SecureUSB BT is ideal for remote healthcare workers by keeping them in control of confidential patient data. To learn more about how these devices can protect data during the pandemic and in all healthcare settings, call 1-800-875-3230.