What is GDPR?
General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR came into force in 2016. This legal framework sets clear guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals who live in the European Union with a strong focus on an individual’s right to privacy.
How does the GDPR affect the healthcare industry?
On the surface it is clear that the healthcare industry deals with a large amount of sensitive personal data, most of which is crucial when it comes to caring for an individual. Healthcare professionals need to have simple and quick access to their patient’s history, symptoms and treatment plan in order to provide the highest level of care.
Article 4(15) GDPR classifies all “personal data related to the physical or mental health of a person, including the provision of health care services, which reveal information on their health status” as special category personal data. This means that the data is sensitive, and therefore it is of utmost importance to keep it secure.
What is Big Data and how can it be affected?
Big data in healthcare describes large volumes of information generated due to the adoption of digital technologies that collect patients’ records and help in managing institutions. This data can then be analysed by means of artificial intelligence, turning raw numbers into knowledge that can be used to benefit the entire industry.
The application of big data analytics in healthcare has already brought about waves of positive change helping to save countless lives. It allows researchers and caregivers to see the bigger picture, understand patterns that can prevent illness, model the spread of pandemics, cure disease, and cut down on operational costs. Some companies are making use of such technology to create a simple digital system for individuals to manage their own health.
How can you keep your data compliant with the GDPR?
When dealing with such large quantities of sensitive, yet vital data, it is important to ensure that the methodology used is compliant with the standards of the GDPR. This will not only protect companies from any legal liability, but will also put the patient’s minds at ease that their medical and health data is safe.
Transparency with patients
All patients should be made aware of how their data is being used and any third parties with which their data will be shared, as well as any security measures in place. This should all be written in a data sharing agreement in a clear, and easy-to-understand manner.
Awareness among staff
Staff should be given regular training with regards to data protection. This will ensure that best practices are used, minimising the risk of internal data breaches arising from human error.
Process and only share the personal data if really necessary
Any health data should be processed minimally and shared only if necessary. Seeing as unauthorized disclosure can have a serious impact on the patient’s life, the way data is collected, stored, and transferred should be engineered in a secure manner, using encryption, restricted access, and other forms of security.
In the case of big data that will be used for analytical purposes, information can be anonymized, saving each individual as a data point while omitting any identifying information. This will still allow for research to be carried out with large sample populations without the risk of data leaks that could jeopardise an individual’s right to privacy.
So is there such a thing as too much data?
It seems as though we have an endless amount of data available to us, but where do we draw the line? According to the GDPR we should practice data minimisation, only keeping ‘Essential Data’ for which there is an explicit use. Of course, we want to collect as much data as possible so that we can gain something meaningful out of it, but at the same time we are restricted to keep only the data that we need.
At the end of the day, big data is part of our lives in this digital age, and its benefits are clear. We have seen how big data is already being used to save lives on a daily basis, becoming instrumental in the healthcare industry. We must strive to achieve a balance where useful data can be collected, stored, and processed, while ensuring that the privacy of every one of the individuals in our care a top priority.
Some statements are subject to clinical trials and are not commercially available yet. We are demonstrating our systems on 14-17 November 2022 at the Medica Trade Fair (Düsseldorf, Germany) event.