The healthcare industry has long been late to the technology party. While other sectors quickly embraced the digital age, laws and regulations prevented the healthcare industry from leveraging these technologies. Now, that is changing.
In recent years, technological advances in data storage and management have shifted rapidly. We can better understand how to protect sensitive data in the digital age, yet there is still progress to be made. These shifts could have important implications for the way healthcare data is handled, how workers share sensitive information, and even the way doctors work.
So, what is changing in the medical data management industry, and what impact will these shifts have on the way we research, treat patients, and analyze data? Let's look at a few of the most striking changes.
Medical data security in a digital age
Privacy and security have always been paramount when handling medical data. Yet, recent years have shown the digital age comes with unique problems.
In 2018 alone, more than 15 million patient records were compromised. Some estimates suggest the number of compromised records in 2019 has already exceeded that number. These data breaches made the need for better security glaringly obvious.
One of the most promising solutions for increasing security is through the use of cloud computing and data storage. But these solutions may have their own drawbacks.
The cloud is changing how data is stored
Traditionally, digital data was stored on a physical server with both physical and digital protections in place to safeguard data from breaches. In recent years, however, the hosting industry has shifted toward cloud-based storage, with tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon taking the helm.
There are many benefits to cloud-based hosting; for example, it makes sharing data far more convenient. It can also be more secure, as the data is stored in multiple locations, which reduces the impact of data loss. However, those in the scientific and medical industries need to seek HIPAA-compliant cloud hosts and work with cloud data companies to ensure security needs are met.
Big data is (slowly) coming to the medical field
Big data, a field which analyzes massive amounts of data looking for trends and patterns, has been slow to move into the healthcare field. That is projected to change in coming years, due in part to advancements in big data analytical tools and more intelligent diagnostic equipment.
As more data becomes available, the challenge becomes how to use it successfully. A recent report suggests that to stay relevant in the coming years, the healthcare industry needs to understand the role data can play in the industry and expand its applications by taking a wider view of healthcare data.
A traditional problem in the healthcare industry has been a lack of interoperability. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions have not always been able to easily exchange data, making care more cumbersome. But this has been changing fast. By 2015, over 80% of hospitals in the US proved capable of data sharing with other organizations, improving the convenience of both healthcare professionals and patients.
Interoperability is more than just convenient, however; it helps us move closer to a fully integrated, seamless healthcare experience where patients and their medical providers have the information they need to make informed decisions at the touch of a button.
However, this shift comes with security concerns that need to be addressed. How can the industry make the most out of data sharing without creating bottlenecks for end-users or compromising the security and privacy of patients? That question has yet to be settled.
Federal rules & regulations
Regulation has been introduced in response to the need for medical data management. For example, the 2016 21st Century Cures Act sought (among other things) to facilitate data flow to increase the approval of medical processes and treatments. In the US, laws like these have been limited to individual states. In the future, however, the federal government is likely to have a much bigger impact on the medical data management field.
In some areas, we are still working to understand how these laws apply to the way medical data is stored, analyzed and managed. Expect to see additional clarifications and laws in coming years (e.g. expansions of HIPAA as they relate to cloud-based storage) as we better understand how to both leverage and protect medical data.
Final thoughts on trends in medical data management
Technological solutions are rapidly growing in the medical data management field. In the end, these solutions will allow medical professionals to offer more informed care by providing them with access to crucial information quickly.
However, there are security and privacy concerns to be addressed. In the beginning, federal regulations may slow the use of these technological solutions. As time passes, and we better understand the implications of technology on medical data, the healthcare industry will become more efficient, more informed, and better able to offer care.
Author's bio: Toni Allen is a webmaster, writer and web hosting expert -- she has been reviewing hosting companies for sites such as WhoIsHostingThis for over a decade.