How to Think About Your Healthcare Data Strategy

Patient healthcare information is some of the most personal data that’s recorded about any of us. Almost all of this content is stored in the form of electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic healthcare records (EHR).

Unfortunately, EMRs / EHRs are a prime target for hackers, with over 230 healthcare data breaches impacting over 100 million people in 2015. This is a huge issue for individuals and the organizations tasked with protecting their data. Data breaches cause reputational damage, loss of trust, and have a significant financial impact.

In the United States, private healthcare data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which provides strict rules, regulations, and compliance for anyone handling patients’ medical data. Breaches of these regulations lead to large fines for organizations, with over $23,000,000 fined from businesses in 2016.

If you want to avoid reputational impact, loss of trust, and financial damages, you must have an effective strategy in place for handling medical data. Here are the key areas you’ll need to cover.

Realize Why Healthcare Data Governance is so Important
Start by getting proper data governance in place. This means understanding the “big picture” for your healthcare data needs, including:

  • Policies for handling all medical and healthcare data.
  • Processes for how medical data is created, transmitted, stored, managed, used, and archived.
  • Understanding gaps between how your organization handles healthcare data and HIPAA compliance.
  • Getting the right training and auditing processes in place across all employees, systems, stakeholders, and more.

Understand that Healthcare Data Governance and Strategy Applies to All Data, in Any State

Regardless of the medical data you collect or how it’s used, your data governance and strategy can’t have any exceptions. From the moment the data is created throughout its lifecycle, it needs to be rigorously protected and treated with the highest levels of encryption, confidentiality, and access rights.

Whether your data is at rest, being transmitted between systems, or is in an archived state, this need for strong controls never changes. This doesn’t just apply to data handling in your organization, it also extends to whoever and whatever you share that data with.

Build Data Security into Every Business Process

Healthcare data handling and security brings together many different areas — policies, people, technology, processes, and more. It’s vital that security, resilience, and data protection are applied throughout every single business process that involved handling, managing, transmitting, or storing healthcare data in any way.

Carry Out Vulnerability Assessments and Data Auditing

Once you have a robust healthcare data strategy in place, it’s vital to test and improve it over time. You should build regular threat assessments, vulnerability testing, and auditing into your healthcare data strategy. This will help you identify and resolve potential weak spots.

Healthcare data strategy and information governance is something you need to take very seriously. The right approach, coupled with robust technology will provide you with the peace of mind that you’re meeting your medical data security commitments.

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