Comment: Better data management is key

John Gladstone, EMEA healthcare practice lead at Commvault, looks at building a single patient point-of-truth in healthcare and why this will lead to better security and lower costs.

Data management in healthcare is a complex issue – it’s often the most-sensitive personal information an organisation can collect on an individual, so it’s imperative that it is managed and treated as carefully as possible.

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that some feel a great deal of concern about the digitisation of health information and data sharing being between different practices.

Just last week, a coding error led to confidential information on 150,000 NHS patients being distributed against their wishes.

However, in what may sound like a counter-intuitive turn of events; improved data sharing and better data management practices could actually improve security, as well as streamline costs and improve patient care.

Enabling system compatibility between any number of partners is a challenge, but having an overarching infrastructure which can connect all the pieces together is invaluable

More apps and databases than ever before are being used in healthcare.

Users on the front end may well have come across the Patient Access system, or have experienced the GP-to-pharmacy prescription services.

However, for all of these to work, different systems have to be able to talk to each other in a secure way. Without this, it’s impossible to create a single-point-of-truth view of each patient.

In my experience, there can be as many as 500 different applications running in a hospital at any one time, and it’s imperative that they speak to each other.

This communication structure is particularly important as NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network are now planning to collaborate and share patient data.

The potential benefits of this data sharing are significant, but the additional compatibility will prove challenging without an overarching system that can plug in to all the different components from each organisation.

Enabling system compatibility between any number of partners is a challenge, but having an overarching infrastructure which can connect all the pieces together is invaluable.

At the same time, getting different systems to talk to each other is an opportunity to install checks and balances between each connection point. This helps to prevent the types of code errors we saw during the recent data breach, as any mistakes in transmission will cause errors in compatibility and will be easier to highlight.

In addition, sophisticated data management across healthcare systems can help with data protection – particularly important now that GDPR is in effect.

For example, Denver Health, one of Colorado’s premier healthcare institutions, found that data management helped it to shave hours off its backup time.

David Boone, an operations and server manager at Denver Health, explained: “We’re able to back up our data more frequently, ensuring we have a recent copy of data available in the event of a hardware failure or other similar incident.

Improved data sharing and better data management practices could actually improve security, as well as streamline costs and improve patient care

“We are able to better manage the data lifecycle in compliance with HIPAA and other regulatory requirements. Ultimately, we have more confidence in our Epic EHR data backup. This is important because of how critical this patient information is to our operations and the care we provide members of our community.”

And data protection and security are not the only benefits of creating a single-point-of-truth view of patients across different medical systems.

As well as providing more-accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive information about a patient, the consolidated view can actually help cut costs for both the NHS, and for private healthcare patients – a win on both sides.

For example – if a patient has had a set of blood tests conducted by one department, another department would not need to spend time conducting the same tests, but can instead analyse the data already on the system. Similarly, if the patient then goes to a private provider, the private provider does not need to bill for a procedure that’s already been carried out, because the systems are able to communicate with each other. However, this is only possible with comprehensive data management that is able to join data from many different sources.

The data management challenge of healthcare has really only just begun.

The digitalisation of healthcare records was step one in a digital data deluge for the healthcare industry – both public and private.

The digitalisation of healthcare records was step one in a digital data deluge for the healthcare industry – both public and private

As more devices and applications get added to the network – from wearable fitness trackers to new diagnoses applications, it’s never been more important to ensure that each application and data stream is consolidated together.

Without this, it will be impossible to ensure the best care for patients, the most-comprehensive data protection, and the most cost-effective approach to providing care.

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