22 Aug Drawing the line on digital health data
We live in a world ruled by computers and the internet. So, why are we so protective of our health and patient data?
Technology governs almost every facet of our activities, from work, to communication, to recreation. Almost every time we engage with digital technology, it requires us to impart some small piece of personal information. Judging by our prolific use of social media and online banking, it’s a risk we are clearly comfortable taking.
We happily entrust our financial and personal details to third parties and take it on faith that our details will be protected, yet we are not willing to extend that same trust to a government-regulated department, as demonstrated by the poor public reception to the ‘My Health Record’ initiative.
We seem to prioritise the privacy of our health over all else under the assumption that it is potentially compromising and could result in discrimination. This is all well and good but could the same be true of other personal data we have floating around the digital cloud? Careers have ended over social media posts and reputations have been shredded as the result of data breaches on dating websites. Our browsing history is constantly being analysed by marketing algorithms and there have even been arrests made based on the genetic information willingly uploaded to genealogy sites like ancestry.com. We can never guarantee that our data is safe and there is a reasonable chance a great deal of information that you consider to be private is freely available.
Better health care depends on digitisation
The healthcare industry is being held back by a lack of data sharing and yet, it is perhaps the one industry that stands to benefit most from data digitisation. Australia’s Digital Health Strategy is founded on digital information to improve the health outcomes for all Australians. Through the safe, seamless and secure application of digital data, the benefits for patients are expected to be significant: avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, fewer adverse drug events, reducing duplication of tests, better coordination of care for people with chronic and complex conditions, and better-informed treatment decisions. Digital health information can help save and improve lives. The old paradigm of paper and separate systems is no longer able to keep up with modern healthcare demands and does not readily enable new and innovative approaches.
The system of paper filing also isn’t actually ‘secure’. For proper filing and administration, multiple individuals will come into contact with sensitive personal documents and a potential data breach could happen at any step. With digital systems, you at least have an audit trail of who has viewed files and can easily restrict access to a select few. Organisations handling health data would be only too aware of the risks of data breaches, given the new Notifiable Data Breach legislation, which makes businesses and individuals more accountable for data leaks.
Digitising data in aged care
In an ageing and aged care context, as we move into an era of Consumer Directed Care, we will increasingly expect a model of service delivery designed to give more choice and flexibility. From a care catering perspective, we have the opportunity to apply software solutions to one of the most labour intensive and increasingly complex parts of providing care to our ageing community. By recording residents’ meal, allergens and dining preferences digitally, staff and families have greater control to update preferences as, and when, they change. This can be especially important for people living with dementia as they often forget what they like or dislike and food preferences can change frequently. Easy access to resident preferences could mean the difference between a meal enjoyed and a meal left uneaten, or worse, one that could do harm.
Key to providing the right healthcare services at the right time and in the right place will require the prioritisation of a safe, seamless and secure digital health footprint, together with innovative technologies to streamline processes and improve communication between patients, families and healthcare professionals.
What are your thoughts on digitising health data? We’d love to hear your comments. Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @soupedupsolutions