Behind the screen: data risk in healthcare digital transformation

15 Aug, 2023

Behind the screen: data risk in healthcare digital transformation

Healthcare digital transformation involves fundamental changes in the way health care providers approach patient care. It’s made how we experience healthcare in 2023 unrecognisable in many ways compared to even just a few decades ago. Extending well beyond the computer or mobile screen, the shift is seismic, transforming the way health services are delivered, making better use of data, and aiming for an experience that is more patient-centric, accessible, and efficient. But what are the risks? And how can health providers mitigate them, while moving forward on their digital transformation journey?

The human factor: the patient behind the screen

The core function of the sector – human health and wellbeing – means that the impact of technological changes can be complex. A shift towards digital health records has implications for data privacy. Legacy systems built on opaque proprietary technology can be a nightmare to migrate and integrate. Streamlined systems and efficiencies carry a risk that other objectives like data security might be deprioritised in favour of a technical solution.

In other words, as for all sectors engaged in digital transformation, your customers, stakeholders, and business objectives exist in a finely balanced tension. However, the stakes are higher in healthcare because the people who consume these services are often the most vulnerable among us, and the data they share is highly personal.

And the reality is, that the measurable and immediate benefits of technological advances may be tempered by a very human and very understandable resistance to change.

Adoption of digital solutions may also be hampered by legacy systems, by the vulnerabilities of emerging tech and by a complex, slow-moving regulatory environment.

Mitigation requires a commitment to patient care, an openness to innovation tempered with deep technical expertise, a steady hand, and the ability to understand what’s at stake.

Swipe right: what’s driving the vision of a tech-enabled utopia?

Patients, health providers and governments all see the benefits of continuing healthcare digital transformation. From wearable tech such as heart and blood pressure monitors; from apps to telehealth, technology has made some healthcare more accessible than it has ever been for all Australians, whether regional, remote or metro-based.

And during the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw an enormous push forward in the adoption of digital and remote technology simply because it was the only way to continue to deliver and consume health services. This uptick was also reflected in usage of the Australian Government’s My Health Record, which has jumped from 13.2 million records with data in them in January 2020 to a June 2023 figure of 23.22 million records containing data.

Swipe left: big data; big risk

Data and connectivity have revolutionised diagnosis and treatment but they also raise important questions of data security and privacy. And that’s aside from the technological challenges of integration and connectivity within your organisation and beyond.

Wearable tech collects real-time data and in a health context that can help health care professionals with diagnosis and developing personalised treatment plans for patients, using accurate information. Access to health services via apps and online portals provides a freedom and ease-of-use like never before.

Fantastic stuff, yes?

Yet as patients, we remain hesitant about the adoption of technology that might see our data shared or hacked. And rightly so. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) found that in the period July to December 2022, health was the sector that reported the highest number of data breaches. Health also scored the highest number of breaches due to system breakdown. (Notifiable Data Breaches Report: July to December 2022).

And as health providers, the continuing demand for more access, more streamlining, better data security and privacy, better connectivity, and faster responses makes mapping a ‘future state’ for digital transformation a huge headache.

Beyond the black mirror of healthcare data

There’s no doubt that identity security and identity data breaches are a huge concern for the health care sector. But if you’re a CTO or CIO in health care, you know that’s not the whole picture. The health sector is characterised by one-to-many relationships, complex data access and permissions requirements, huge leaps forward in innovation, a need for interoperability and multiple stakeholders and business imperatives – and data. Lots of data.

The only way through is to partner with a digital transformation team that knows the landscape, understands the opportunities and knows how to navigate the risks. You’ll need someone with experience, skill and a commitment to a fit-for-purpose, platform-agnostic approach so that you’re not locked in to tech that solves one of your problems and not the others.

Contact our digital transformation consultants at 9Yards for a chat to discuss your transformation journey and how to effectively achieve your best future state.