Arindam Haldar, CEO, Thyrocare Technologies points out that with an increased number of people availing diagnostic services during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become vital for organisations like diagnostics centres to refortify their data management systems and be the best examples in matters of data privacy. He analyses the key steps in patient health data management, with suggestions on what needs to be done to provide the best service for patients, while ensuring data privacy is not compromised
The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year, with an aim to develop and support integrated digital health infrastructure in India. An integral part of this mission included electronic health data and its management.
With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing people down the path of telemedicine, leveraging technology to bridge the gaps in the healthcare ecosystem came to the forefront. The need for a more reliable healthcare system has been intensified, across the ecosystem be it hospitals, healthcare facilities or diagnostic centres.
With the rising demand of testing and pressure of delivery on diagnostic centres, the need for more reformed framework and infrastructure started making headway. Thus, the influx of medical data which is of high value and is extremely sensitive puts a tremendous strain on healthcare providers to manage data in ways that must ensure integrity, interoperability, and security as it can be misused for various scams and frauds. The digital integration of patient data calls for deliberate steps to be taken to ensure responsible data management, especially in diagnostic centres.
In the challenge to provide the best service for patients, data privacy should not be compromised. There are various steps in the process of data management, which have to be given focus. Let us look at the following critical aspects of patient health data management in detail.
Storage of data
Customer- centric encryption of data has become critical, regardless of how or where the data is being stored. This has become extremely important, especially in the case of medical data, as it is usually accessed by various groups of authorised users. Anti—virus protection and multi-factor authentication are necessary protocols that should be undertaken to reduce the risk of hacking. A designated team should always be on stand-by to handle any security breaches efficiently.
Access and movement of data
Patient health data is transferred between multiple users (such as physicians, pharmaceutical companies, life insurance companies, etc.) for a variety of reasons. However, the patient continues to be the sole owner of this data. Throughout this process, it must be ensured that the integrity of the data is not compromised. The scope of access that these users have to the data has to be limited basis their requirement. Access to the data (in terms of viewing, editing, etc) should be provided to the user only basis his/her purpose of utilising the data.
In case of breaches
Medical organisations should constantly take measures to strengthen their security systems and network security. However, there have been cases earlier where valuable patient information has been exposed by organisations due to data breaches, which can lead to public fall outs and lack of trust among all the users involved.
As mentioned earlier, a designated team to handle such breaches will help take quick action and minimise the risks involved. The remedial measures will also be dependent on the national laws with respect to data privacy. The core focus of the organisation should be to take the necessary steps to rebuild the trust of the groups involved in the case of such incidents.
With the nation on the path of digitising the health records of all individuals under one health identification, it has become vital now, more than ever, for organisations like diagnostics centres to refortify their data management systems and be the best examples in matters of data privacy.
Effective data management can help in value-based healthcare outcomes; but special impetus to be given on safeguarding the privacy and security of personal medical information due to the sensitive nature of the data.