Why GDPR Principles are Vital for Healthcare Businesses

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The GDPR is a recently introduced EU regulation that brought sweeping changes to the handling of personal data throughout Europe. Consisting of six data protection principles that all organisations collecting and processing personal data must comply with the GDPR has massive ramifications in virtually every commercial and public sector.

Healthcare businesses are subject to GDPR principles, with strict guidelines now in place regarding their collecting, processing, storage, and sharing of an individual’s personal data. All healthcare organisations must comply with the newly implemented GDPR principles regarding healthcare data, including public authorities like the NHS trust and private healthcare providers.

The GDPR princes are therefore vital for all healthcare businesses operating throughout Europe. Let’s look at why they are so important:

Lawful Basis of Processing Healthcare Data

The GDPR principles apply to personal data, which is any type of information that can be used to identify a person. For example, name, phone number, IP address, and home address are all considered personal data under GDPR, which are all used and stored by healthcare businesses.

However, personal data isn’t the only form of data that is protected under GDPR. Healthcare data is considered ‘special category’ data under this new legislation, meaning there are even stricter guidelines in place regarding the processing of healthcare data.

All healthcare data must be processed lawfully, fairly, and with complete transparency under GDPR principles. Patients must give explicit consent for the use of their data, while healthcare businesses must show that patients understood and accepted the uses of their data and can easily withdraw consent.

This means various healthcare business must adjust their consent clauses to ensure they are compliant with the new principles under GDPR.

Consent Isn’t Always Required

While the GDPR principles require explicit consent for the lawful basis of healthcare data processing, there are other forms of lawful bases that justify the use of personal data. Healtcare businesses must be able to demonstrate at least one of the six lawful basis for processing of personal healthcare data.

Vital interest is a justification where the processing is necessary to protect the individual’s life, so is one that is often applied in healthcare situations. For example, if a patient is unable to consent due to their health condition but data processing is required for life-saving treatments.

Similarly, legitimate interest is another justification that applies to healthcare data where the use of data is done in the legitimate interests of the individual. Charities and private healthcare organisations may use this justification, with researching healthcare data used for legitimate interests.

Public task is a justification that is likely to be vital for healthcare businesses processing personal data. For instance, healthcare research organisations are likely to use this justification.

This is because their processing of healthcare data is not used for any financial gain, but instead for the benefit the general public, such as helping to plan and improve healthcare services, diagnosis process, effectiveness of healthcare policy etc.

Even when using these justifications for medical research, strict safeguards must be in place by healthcare businesses using this sensitive data. This includes minimising the use of personal data when possible, such as using anonymous data rather than personal data when referring to an individual.  

Records of All Data Processing is Required and Data Protection Officers (DPO) May be Needed

Not only must healthcare businesses have lawful basis for the use of personal healthcare data, they must keep detailed records of processed data. This includes where the sensitive data was is currently stored, how it is processed, and who it is shared with.

Given the massive amounts of sensitive data processed and stored by healthcare businesses, according to Findbettingsites, it’s likely that a data protection officer (DPO) is needed to help manage data records.

In the case of public administrators – such as the NHS – this is a mandatory obligation, so most hospitals are now using data protection officers to ensure data processing and storage records are compliant with GDPR.

Patients Have More Control Over Their Data

The GDPR is the most significant data protection law currently in place, providing the individual with much more control over the processing and storage of their data. As a result, everyone has more rights to access their personal healthcare data and object to its use for any form of direct marketing purposes.

Furthermore, any healthcare business that receives a request to access personal data must show what data has been collected and how it is handled.

Should the individual request their data be deleted, then this must be done with proof that the data is permanently erased, with GDPR principles providing individuals with the right to be forgotten.

That said, there are some exceptions to requests of data erasure. For instance, if the purpose of processing the data is for ongoing medical care then the request may be denied. Therefore, data can only be entirely removed from records if there are no legitimate reasons for its continued use.  

Failure to Meet GDPR Principles Can Result in Massive Fines

GDPR is all about providing every person’s data with greater protection. Given the recent data leaks with the NHS and many other businesses, GDPR principles aim to rebuild trust between the public and healthcare organisations handling personal data.

Any healthcare business that fails to comply with any GDPR principles face significant fines. For example, a maximum fine of €20,000,000 or 4% of global turnover is now applicable to businesses that fail to meet GDPR compliance.

This is a significant increase in previous fines for data breaches, which was set to just €500,000.

This is obviously a massive fine that has serious ramifications on any business, giving healthcare organisations plenty of reason to improve their data protection processes and methods.

Not all breaches immediately result in a fine, while the amount is a maximum fine so not all companies with receive this, but it certainly gives healthcare businesses all the incentive they need to remain fully complaint with GDPR principles.

Any business involved in a data breach must also inform the ICO of the incident within 72 hours, ensuring fast action is always taken should the worst happen. The ICO also looks at breaches on a case-by-case basis, considering the nature, severity, and scale of the breach and the type of data before imposing action.

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