Personal Data in the Healthcare Sector: What Are the Risks?

Updated on October 24, 2023

The healthcare arena has been witness to incredible progress, all thanks to the responsible utilization of patient data. This progress has translated into better patient care, the development of life-saving treatments, and groundbreaking strides in medical research.

However, as with any leap in technology, it comes with its own set of risks when it comes to handling personal information. In this article, we’ll delve into the very real concerns people have about healthcare data and the proactive measures in place to mitigate these associated risks.

Weighing up benefits and risks

In our increasingly digitized world, we enjoy the convenience of personalized services based on data about us. However, concerns about data misuse and breaches, exemplified by incidents like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, have raised privacy issues. People’s willingness to share personal data varies, depending on the benefits they receive and the type of data involved.

When considering patient data, we must evaluate the benefits and risks. The sunny side of the hill is, patient data offers substantial advantages, including improved individual care, enhanced healthcare services, and support for medical research. Patients benefit from insights based on similar cases, contributing to better treatment outcomes.

On the flipside, sharing patient data is not without risks. Concerns primarily revolve around invasion of privacy, loss of control when data leaves the healthcare system, and the threat of cyberattacks. Measures must be in place to mitigate these risks and protect patient information.

Different measures to reduce the risk

Although there is no way to alleviate the risk completely, certain measures can be implemented to reduce it:

– Anonymization: Whenever possible, anonymized data is used to protect patients’ identities.

– Auditing: Rigorous audit processes scrutinize data users, ensuring accountability.

– Penalties: Strict penalties are imposed in cases of data misuse to deter potential breaches.

For instance. the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes significant fines for data protection violations, deterring misuse. Criminal penalties exist for those attempting to re-identify individuals from anonymized data without consent.

Data access and decision-making

Transparency regarding data access and decision-making is vital. Patients have the right to know who manages their data and the level of control they have. The national data opt-out, introduced in 2018, allows patients to influence the use of their confidential information.

Data breaches in the health sector

Within the healthcare sector, data breaches raise significant alarm bells. These incidents unfold when personal information, which can be used to identify individuals, ends up lost, disclosed, or, in some unfortunate instances, gets hacked. Common culprits behind these breaches include sending data to the wrong recipient, the misplacement or theft of physical records, and the inadvertent sharing of sensitive information through email.

The impact of a data breach varies depending on the individual and the type of data compromised. Sensitive medical information disclosure can have severe consequences, affecting an individual’s privacy and reputation. Such data often gets picked up by data brokers, necessitating the use of personal information removal services to wipe it clean from their records. Although data brokers have a legal obligation to honor such removal requests, ultimately, data that is leaked can end up anywhere, so proactive measures to protect it remain key.

Privacy concerns and third-party access

Privacy holds a vital place in our hearts, as the mishandling of medical history can bring about some really serious consequences. Patients are genuinely anxious about the prospect of their privacy slipping away, fearing not just reputational harm but also the possibility of facing discrimination due to the exposure of their personal data.

While many trust healthcare organizations, concerns arise when third parties, especially in the private sector, access health data. Organizations must have legal basis for data access and adhere to strict data usage agreements, limiting the transfer of data to other third parties.

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Source: Pexels

In healthcare, sensitive personal data is collected, the repercussions of which can be catastrophic in case it ever gets leaked.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, patient data is like a treasure trove for enhancing healthcare, but it does carry some risks in its backpack. To uphold trust among the public and ensure individuals’ privacy, we’ve put strong safety nets in place to trim down these risks. Patient data plays a pivotal role in the world of modern healthcare, and it’s vital that we handle it responsibly to deliver better, more effective care.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.