Are wireless security concerns real, or just paranoia?

With all the breathless talk about the potential for wireless health IT, don't forget about the elephant in the room. This pachyderm goes by the name of Security. With "unlicensed" technology like standard telephone networks, RFID, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Frost & Sullivan researchers see major security holes that could derail attempts to implement electronic health records, clinical decision support and other forms of clinical IT, but they are more comfortable with the security of 3G cellular networks.

"Such security features will enable cellular technology to gain a competitive advantage over various wireless alternatives as cellular technologies operate in the licensed band providing guaranteed quality of service," says research analyst Luke Thomas.

But even that could fail when healthcare organizations start exchanging data. "In order to tap this opportunistic market, the cellular ecosystem would need to implement an efficient network protocol that will ensure the security of applications used and information transmitted within the healthcare sector," co-author Jayashree Rajagopal explains.

ZDNet blogger Dana Blankenhorn is unconvinced of the risks the Frost researchers mention, calling the warning "paranoia." Writes Blankenhorn: "Frost & Sullivan's wireless analysts can come up with all the scary scenarios they want, but where is the real danger?
The real danger is you're raising the cost of care."

To understand both sides of this debate:
- read Blankenhorn's blog post
- see the Frost & Sullivan press release
- download the full report (subscription req.)