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How healthcare executives can safely use clinical data

Healthcare executives and IT departments shouldn't neglect protecting the growing amount of data that's at their disposal.

The continued growth of devices and systems that capture information, as well as the availability of inexpensive storage, are largely responsible for the incredible amount of digital data. Several estimations project the amount of global data is likely to reach 15 zettabytes by next year and will more than double by 2018.

What can be done with all this information and can some vertical markets, such as healthcare, find more benefits from it than others? Those are questions that healthcare executives should ask themselves as they weigh the opportunities that come with bountiful data against the security risks tied to handling that data.

The healthcare industry is a contributor to the overall growth of digital data. The increase in the use of medical devices and EHRs has resulted in healthcare organizations accumulating larger data sets. As a result, healthcare executives are searching for ways to safely and effectively leverage the wealth of information they possess.

Many successful social media sites and mobile application developers have monetized the data they collect from users by selling targeted advertising. This is one way user data, such as demographics, and behavior can become part of a revenue stream. A similar model can be applied in healthcare. Instead of selling patient information -- which is illegal -- health organizations can provide de-identified patient information and clinical details to clinical researchers, drug manufacturers and other research entities for a fee. This model can benefit the health organization monetarily and advance research efforts by providing valuable clinical data.

Analytics and security part of data equation

Data analytics is another area where the healthcare industry can take advantage of its wealth of patient data. A healthcare organization deploys analytics platforms to mine clinical data to improve patient outcomes, lower the cost of care, support evidence-based medicine and manage population health by monitoring specific key indicators.

Healthcare executives are aware that data is an invaluable asset to their organizations.

The increase in the generation and consumption of data raises security concerns. Healthcare IT professionals have been evaluating their security practices to establish that all their systems are adequately protected. These security checks are partially the result of high-profile data breaches.  Many health IT professionals have indicated that security is one of the top items on their business agendas. Implementing and updating security processes, tools and standards are musts because of the addition of more access points and new data.

There is also steady demand for more storage to help support the data increase. Some of the storage expansion has taken the form of physical storage arrays added to existing infrastructures. Other businesses shifted their storage needs to the cloud and chose to host some of their data offsite.

Healthcare executives are aware that data is an invaluable asset to their organizations. In time, more tools and services will be created to help healthcare organizations manage this influx of information. Healthcare executives and IT teams should all work to identify the opportunities presented to them by this data without compromising the security of the data or the organization.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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