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Giving Data Security a Human Face to Regain Patient Trust


Hardly anyone can imagine the future of healthcare without big data. But with frequent leaks and cyberattacks, how can patients share their personal information?

data security, healthcare data breach,patient data safety

In healthcare, it’s now clearer than ever how vulnerable patient information is. All the data breaches, the mishandling and other common industry risks result in minimum levels of trust among the patients. And with one in five healthcare professionals having had private patient data compromised, it’s hardly any wonder.

Yet patient trust is essential — not only to ensure the effective functioning of healthcare organizations, but also to enter a new era of wearable machines, online health records and remote medical checks. And it’s the responsibility of each organization to provide it.

Rather than insincerely trying to persuade patients to give out their medical data, healthcare operators need to understand exactly why there is such reluctance among their patients to do so. But that’s not enough: They also need to take proactive steps to regain patient trust once and for all.

Bright Future for Big Data?

As new innovations and emerging technologies mediate our access to an unprecedented amount of data, there’s an urgent requirement to develop comprehensive data strategies. Healthcare needs to systemize both administrative and patient documentation. But beyond that, there’s a surge of data coming from patient health techs like wearable devices, intelligence monitoring gadgets, apps, automatic insulin pumps, artificial intelligence ultrasound scans and houses designed with smart technology to monitor patients.

These data have the ability to empower operators to guide more informed and evidence-based medical decisions, promote cost cuttings and streamline operational efficiency. But with great power comes great responsibility. In stark contrast to the limitless possibilities, it’s important to highlight that fewer than half of healthcare CIOs have strong trust in their data.

The Reality Check

The risk of breaches in healthcare is extremely high: The data of thousands of people are compromised annually. There are several reasons for this gloomy statistic. Mostly, it’s rusty infrastructure, poorly trained staff and lack of clarity. Patients themselves feel conflicted: They see the advantages of technology, but at the same time, they are skeptical about the way the information they share may be used. And these doubts only multiply with firsthand negative experiences.

For example, patients often encounter barriers — such as poorly informed or unhelpful staff, high fees, long waits and frustrating bureaucratic process — when accessing their own medical reports. Not even HIPAA is almighty: The healthcare system doesn’t give patients reliable or consist response, and only 53% of hospitals indicated that patients could get their complete health records.

The news of mass misconducts spread like wildfire and irrevocably damage the fragile relationship between healthcare providers and patients. For example, in January 2018, Moorfields Eye Hospital was found to process and store data at locations not stated in its data sharing agreement. The organization also provided third-party access to data without a proper agreement, among other things.

On the individual level, we could see two National Health Service workers unlawfully access the medical records of Ed Sheeran in May 2018. How they were disciplined — one sacked and one given a written warning — did little to reaffirm that healthcare organizations are taking privacy and individual rights seriously.

The Best Practices

But the trust can be restored. The main problem is that many healthcare operators fail to recognize that patient collaboration is crucial for delivering efficient services. Therefore, data security that emphasizes patients and their needs should be a top priority.

On the macro level, patients should be provided more agency over the fate of their personal data. Whether the data are anonymized or not, patients should be able to state their preference for disseminating their personal information. To keep their fingers on the pulse of complex data security issues, healthcare organizations should also cultivate transparency and process intelligence. Systemizing, building solid infrastructure and vouching for smart software solutions are steps in the right direction. For example, CRM solutions for data storage (such as Salesforce) can enable operators to create comprehensive and secure databases.

But paying attention to the little things is just as important. Many of the common threats originate from the lack of IT literacy. Administrators should remember to constantly update software, delete accounts of employees that have left the organization and secure access to calendars or emails from personal devices. Likewise, staff must be trained to add a layer of security to all their actions. This can mean using strong passwords, logging out after terminating sessions and avoiding sharing credentials or saving passwords in browsers.

With data management becoming the centerpiece, headlining a data security strategy is crucial. Especially with greater integration of advanced technologies — be it the Internet of Things or personal medical devices — these processes need to revolve around patient needs and wellbeing.

Florin Cornianu is co-founder & CEO of 123FormBuilder.

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