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As healthcare digitises, data breaches loom

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A recent national healthcare grant to digitise patient records is a step in the right direction. But, healthcare organisations also need systems in place to mitigate the risk of data breaches, says WAYNE CLARKE, MD of Metrofile Records Management.

According to the recent 2016 Mid Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), the national health insurance grant will be increased by R9 million to fund the strengthening of health information systems in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. While this is incredibly positive, when healthcare organisations digitise patient information and records or adopt new technology it is vital that the records management system is evaluated to mitigate the risk of data breaches.

Wayne Clarke, Managing Director of Metrofile Records Management, a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited, says that healthcare organisations using an Electronic Records Management (ERM) system need to realise that sensitive and confidential information can be travelling with their employees wherever they go. “A breach in data does not always occur as a result of a hacking attack, but can happen when an employee’s electronic device gets stolen or as a result of something as simple as the misplacement of a USB stick.”

He says that healthcare data contains highly confidential information that can be used for medical identity theft and fraud. “Healthcare organisations need to be aware of the costs involved in crisis management if a cyber breach or systems failure occurs.”

According to IBM’s 2016 Cost of Data Breach study the healthcare industry was the industry with the highest per capita data breach cost last year. The average per capita cost of data breaches in South Africa in 2015 was $1.87 million. The report also states that South African companies had the highest percentage of human error data breaches and that South Africa and Brazil are the two countries with the highest estimated probability of occurrence, adds Clarke.

Data theft is not going to disappear, notes Clarke, and the list of organisations falling foul to this will grow. “Government and industry regulators will also get tougher with organisations not taking the right steps to protect themselves against data breaches and attacks.”

According to the McAfee Labs Threats September 2016 Report ransomware attacks targeting the healthcare industry especially hospitals increased in 2016.

Clarke adds that when a data breach occurs it is important for the organisation to react as quickly as possible to protect their brand, minimise bad publicity and reassure clients that they are doing everything they can to resolve the issue and taking the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.

Data breaches in the healthcare industry are real, and so too are the costly consequences, says Clarke. “As digital innovations increase in the healthcare industry, data breaches will only continue to grow. It is therefore vital for healthcare organisations to take proactive measures to protect their data.”

“Firewalls, antivirus software and threat detection will not prevent data breaches. The best way to combat the challenge of managing healthcare record systems and to mitigate the risk of loss or breach of sensitive data is to enforce a strict corporate policy and to educate staff on the entire records management system and storage process. However, employing a dedicated records manager or outsourcing records management to a reputable service provider, would be the best solution,” says Clarke.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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