OPINION: Unlocking the value of healthcare data with effective data management


Big data in the healthcare technology

JOHANNESBURG – DATA in the healthcare sector is heavily regulated, with numerous laws and regulations governing how data needs to be processed, protected and retained. This has become more important than ever in light of the Covid-19 crisis, which has made healthcare data an increasingly attractive target for cybercrime. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the need to be able to analyse and share data effectively, as the world strives for improved treatment protocols and ideally an effective and safe vaccination. Data management has become a critical tool to unlocking the value of healthcare data, during the pandemic and beyond.

Many regulations make heavy work
In South Africa the Healthcare Professions Council of South Africa’s (HPCSA) guidelines state that medical records must be stored for at least 20 years. In addition, the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act stipulates minimum requirements for maintaining privacy when it comes to processing personal information. There are also international laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enacted by the USA, amongst others. Stringent management of healthcare data is critical; however this is vital not only for compliance but also to prevent successful data breaches resulting from cyber-attacks.

Valuable data is an attractive target
Healthcare data has always been a target for cybercrime, but we have seen huge increases in attacks as a result of the pandemic. The data stored within the healthcare sector is more valuable than it has ever been, and the volumes have also increased dramatically. From personal records, statistics, to testing and results, finances and economics, healthcare data is critical, so it could very easily be held to ransom.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet solution to mitigating attacks, fending off ransomware and protecting patient information. Best practices around data management are the only answer, with high availability, effective backups and disaster recovery forming the crux. Whether data is stored in the cloud or on premises, this is essential.

Unlocking the value of data
Data management is an essential component of compliance endeavours. It is impossible to understand what laws a provider might be breaking if they do not know what data they have, where it is stored and how it is used. However, data management goes beyond this, because without understanding, not only can data not be protected, it has no value and can actually be a liability.

In a time where data is the key to fighting a pandemic that brought the world to its knees, it is imperative to be able to share information across the healthcare sector. However, it needs to be shared safely, which is why data management is critical. Without security and management protocols in place, vulnerabilities are created, which could have devastating consequences. Data management provides not only the necessary backup, recovery and high availability, it also delivers the indexing and analytics needed to unlock value and help to save countless lives and economies.

NB: Hemant Harie, Managing Director of Gabsten Technologies

– CAJ News

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