Digital health – how to better share and protect patient data

03 / 11 / 18

Have you ever visited the doctors, answered a long list of questions and wondered how your health information is being recorded and shared?

Recent research indicates that 4 out of 5 people are unaware of how their health data is used. These shocking numbers demonstrate the extremely low levels of awareness around how patient data is used, ultimately creating concerns about the potential for personal data to fall into “wrong hands”.

Information sharing is a critical issue which simply means healthcare organisations need to get it right!

Every patient holds the right to know how their confidential information is shared across the integrated and relevant healthcare teams. The privacy and security of patient data is not only a top priority for patients and their families, but also the government and healthcare providers.

As technology unlocks new potential in this digital world, better use of patient data is vital for the improvement of healthcare services. In fact, effective and secure data sharing could speed up diagnosis, improve individual care and generate new information that could save lives or deliver better outcomes. However, organisations need to ensure that patients are made aware in advance and permit sharing their data for other beneficial purposes such as research.

Creating digital patient records has become a key challenge for organisations as they strive to keep up with records management requirements. This is where the “Data Security and Protection Toolkit” opens up a wealth of opportunity.

What is the Data Security and protection toolkit?

In April 2018, the Data Security and Protection Toolkit replaced the Information Governance toolkit (IG). It enables organisations to assess their information governance practices in relation to the National Data Guardian’s 10 security standards and is a move towards a continuous improvement model.

Within the toolkit there is an online self-assessment tool which evaluates whether patient information is handled correctly and protected from unauthorised access whilst also ensuring availability of this data. It also assesses the focus and importance currently placed on the privacy and security of patient health data. For an organisation to be ‘satisfactory’ they must complete all the mandatory items in their toolkit.

This assessment is a ‘must’ for organisations that hold, or have access to, NHS patient data and systems, and want to confirm and demonstrate that they are practicing effective data security and handling processes.

Ultimately, the toolkit will enable information to securely flow across health organisations and departments for multi-disciplinary collaboration and improve the organisations’ ability to analyse data analysis as a means to improve patient outcomes. For help with getting started with the toolkit or for guidance on your information management practices, get in touch.