How can we convince patients their data is safe?

 

Following news of patient data being sold, James Norman, UK Public Sector CIO, EMC, considers what’s required to change the perception of data use in healthcare.

This week’s news that medical records have been sold following data capture when claiming insurance or purchasing holidays or medical products is concerning to anyone who wants more transparency as to how their data is going to used. Equally, the news that NHS patient details have been sold after prescriptions were purchased online is hugely damaging to the data discussion in the healthcare sector. The reality is that there are huge opportunities for improving patient care and driving efficiencies in healthcare through better use of data, but stories such as these are damaging patient confidence and their likelihood to share data in the future.

Within the healthcare sector, data can be used to create a more predictive and personalised healthcare model; contributing significantly to medical research and a more positive patient experience.

Ultimately this can shift the NHS from an illness to a wellness model.

Informatics can now identify the risk factors that put the patient at high risk of developing a condition and help tackle it before it strikes. Monitoring patients using data can also dramatically improve care management. A recent report from EMC and Volterra highlighted the need for acceleration in the uptake of data analytics techniques and technologies to drive £16bn or more in efficiency savings to plug the NHS funding gap.

With all these potential benefits available to the healthcare sector, it’s crucial the discussion isn’t shut down before it’s even begun. It’s essential consumers understand how data can be used to benefit them and the wider population, rather than feeling as though their data is being used solely to aid sales and increase insurance premiums. As part of this, it’s crucial the government scrutinise legislation to ensure patient data is protected and to ensure a greater transparency around how data is being used in healthcare. The major challenge sits in providing proof points for data, leading to greater good and encouraging best practice across the entire healthcare sector.

The future of healthcare will require the right people to have access to patient’s data, with their consent, allowing them to provide appropriate care based on a full understanding of the patient’s history. This can drive real change in how we are able to predict and tackle health problems across the population, particularly around chronic diseases, and drive an efficient and effective health service in the UK.

Until that point, it’s down to the government and industry to tackle the data challenge together and convince patients that giving access to some of their personal data will be beneficial to the health of the nation and, ultimately, their own.

 

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