Epileptic seizure on WhatsApp?

Whenever children experience Spasms or seizures during the night, parents are shocked and immediately expect the worst – they assume that this is a warning sign of epilepsy. Most of these situations turn out to be harmless. But not always. And parents want to have clarity about what is going on – they are not medical experts themselves. Even when parents describe the symptoms in detail, experienced physicians are not always able to make a precise diagnosis. Ideally doctors would want to see the seizures as they happen.

Get a video of the symptoms

Today this is no problem at all – seizures can be caught on video with a smartphone. However, the problem is getting the video to the doctor quickly. Does WhatsApp offer a possible solution to this problem? So-called consumer-grade products like WhatsApp pose a number of major risks. They are not suited for sending sensitive or confidential data. Problems in data transmission cost the industry more than EUR 5 billion annually. And in other sectors data protection is an absolute must as well. In addition to healthcare, the banking and insurance sectors are at high risk. They must also comply with prescribed regulatory measures. In the example mentioned above, parents would have to save the video to a USB sick or DVD and then give that information to their doctor in person. Only then would a diagnosis be possible.

Data privacy and protection in hospitals

The healthcare industry is subject to strict regulations when it comes to protecting personal data. And that is the way it should be. But, as our example shows, the innovations offered by digitization could provide us with many advantages. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced by the EU just a few weeks ago is a signal that once again makes clear to enterprises of all kinds that they are responsible for protecting the personal data which has been submitted to them.

Those people in the business world (or in the healthcare sector) with responsibility for handling data must strike a balance between the opportunities offered by digitization and mandatory external compliance demands. They also know that most security breaches and related problems result from human error.

Analysts have stated that 50 to 70 percent of the employees in European business enterprises are using communication solutions that are not secure. Why is this so? Because the solutions are dependable and easy to use. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are the best examples. Most of our friends do not have Threema – unless they happen to be data security experts. And that is rather seldom.  The situation is no different in hospitals. Most hospitals do not provide their employees with specified or prescribed solutions for their data communications, which is why most people use consumer services like WhatsApp. This messaging service (the smartphone feature that is used the most) has some 1.3 billion users worldwide. Every sixth person on earth relies on WhatsApp.

Leveraging the benefits of mobile messaging

No one questions the benefits offered by mobile messaging, and few people worry about the security of such services. But how can we use the advantages of mobile messaging while complying with security regulations at the same time?

The answer: We need to give messaging services an additional security layer. Today messaging is no longer something akin to rocket science. It is easy to reproduce. The important thing is to have additional security functionalities on top. A mobile messenger app would then have the potential to revolutionize scenarios in healthcare. In addition to launching technical features to support security, other aspects related to communication need to be optimized in line with data protection guidelines. One example would be having a data repository and an app backend in a European data center that is operated by European personnel.

Business enterprises using such messaging services would benefit from higher security along with improved collaboration. Group chats and guest access, video calls and even chatbots can be linked up with such solutions – and that would bring collaboration to the next level.

NetSfere is an example of a messenger that is dynamic and delivers security/data protection as well. NetSfere would enable us to slightly modify our aforementioned scenario. Doctors could invite parents to a secure chatroom. The parents could then show the video of their child under secure conditions and then chat or phone their doctor directly – all on one platform. That is what makes telemedicine possible.

The Decision Factory (Entscheiderfabrik), a German association of decision-makers from more than 800 hospitals who develop digital solutions to overcome the challenges of business processes in healthcare, recently selected the NetSfere chat solution from 12 innovations competing to be the Digital Advancement of the Year. NetSfere is now being tested in numerous hospitals in Germany.  The message is clear: Progress is possible!

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