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As Healthcare Data Expands, So Does Security

“Unstructured repositories from wearable devices, like FitBit … capture more about our preferences and behaviors than we realize.” – Kenneth Bradberry, Chief Technology Officer

It’s the age of information. Our data is everywhere, embedded across a wide variety of locations with seemingly no guarantee of privacy and security. Our data is captured in almost everything we do, and stored and distributed in a variety of formats and forms.

In my last blog post I wrote about how the Internet of Things has changed the way we look at privacy and security. As patients and consumers, we all need to be security-aware. We enjoy the advantages that new technology brings, and with that, we have created an explosion of data that has shifted the paradigm. This data can provide a wealth of health information that can transform healthcare. The use of well-managed repositories like electronic health records are now the standard in healthcare.

However, unstructured repositories from wearable devices, like Fitbit, provide unique insights from a seeming-infinite number of data caches. These types of devices capture more about our preferences and behaviors than we realize. As we  create these digital trails, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind in the process. This data is so pervasive and available that many organizations capture and use our data for legitimate reasons, while others exploit it for some personal preference or behavior to sell products, or use in a malicious way.

We had little choice to become digital citizens in this age of information. Whether we like or not, it’s part of the fabric of our lives in 2016. As patients and consumers, we must learn to protect our information.

The Advantage of Ubiquitous Data

This ubiquitous healthcare data has helped create the field of population health management, which can change the way we access healthcare, stay healthy and reduce healthcare costs. Moreover, this data allows doctors and other healthcare providers understand the kind of information and tools they should share with patients in order to improve their health, or help others who are at risk stay healthy.

Security and Data

Population health management takes an analytical approach to understanding the needs of the population, which requires access to rich and robust sources of data. This data must be collected from sources in a secure way, and we must ensure HIPAA and privacy rules are followed. This requires an application to access data from a variety of locations with all the proper authentications. The data includes electronic medical records, health information exchanges, claims data, networks, applications, servers, databases, desktops and cloud based repositories.

The security of this data is a major issue as researchers and vendors develop new interoperability solutions that support population health management (PHM) initiatives. Interoperability makes it possible for these diverse data sources and applications to work compatibly, and create an information network that supports a PHM solution. Securing the data in this new information network has been a focus of healthcare providers. The new challenge is how patients can protect themselves while still contributing to the sources of data that are so important to PHM.

Your Data and Your Privacy

Understanding the HIPAA privacy laws, being smart about what is posted online or what we download and sign up for is essential, especially where your medical data is concerned. Many times you will unknowingly opt-in to data collection services that can compromise your personal data. The healthcare provider plays an important role to ensure the security and privacy of their patients, but your personal diligence is also essential.

The best way a healthcare provider can ensure your data’s integrity is to partner with a world-class service provider that is focused on interoperability, population health and HIPAA compliance. The provider should ensure all vendors adhere to the same standards for handling personal health information. Clearly defined agreements that dictate how data can be distributed, who owns it, how it’s collected as well as how it is securely managed and stored.

The healthcare industry will embrace population health management as it evolves, which means demand for more robust data will only increase. That’s why healthcare organizations must act now to set the bar for the future, and embrace solid security practices that protect their system and patients.