Why security must be top focus of mHealth wearable data exchange strategy

The explosive growth of mHealth wearables, illustrated by Fitbit's recent IPO and the debut of Apple's Watch earlier this year, isn't happening without serious worries about user security. To that end, providers and payers must put security front-and-center before allowing data exchange from patient and consumer devices, according to a security expert.

"What we're seeing is that security is not being built into these devices--not just the wearables, but [also] anything that can be implanted," Suzanne Widup, a senior analyst with Verizon, tells HealthcareInfoSecurity.com. "So, until we see device manufacturers really getting on-board, putting security into their products from Day 1, we're going to see more and more issues with these things."

Widup co-authored Verizon's recent Data Breach Investigations Research report.

The warning comes as wearable shipments are on the cusp of explosive growth and adoption. About 72.1 million wearable devices will be shipped this year, a new report estimates, a clear sign the market will not be slowing down anytime soon. Last year 26.4 million wearables shipped.

The healthy market outlook is supported by the response to fitness band maker Fitbit's decision to go public. The wearable company exceeded expectations on its opening day with a starting trade value of $20 a share--$1 more than the expected high pricing of $19. 

The healthcare value proposition of a mHealth wearable is tied to a key aspect--the data--and it's that data that boasts the biggest security threat, Widup says.

"We are seeing attackers increasingly taking alternative means of getting in [to healthcare IT environments] because the direct methods are getting more secure and difficult to get through," she says.

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