GDPR… a reason for the health sector to be excited!

Since the arrival of HIPAA more 20 years ago, healthcare organizations and professionals have become painfully aware of the price for not safeguarding private medical information.

Unlike HIPAA, which has a maximum fine penalty of $1.5 million per year for violations of an identical provision, GDPR fines can cost up to $24 million or four percent of the violator’s annual global revenue, whichever is higher. To put it simply, GDPR could have a immense impact on business processes across all sectors, globally. In fact, experts agree GDPR could be much more significant than HIPAA, not only punitively, but also in scope.

Preparation is the key

The health sector by its very nature assembles masses of personal data to deliver services to patients. Healthcare providers must ensure that they comply with the requirements of public authorities and are able to demonstrate that they are protecting their patients’ information adequately. Any healthcare organization must also verify its patients’ identities, and create an accurate system that allows for the erasure or rectification of their data.

Safer personal data

Under the GDR, healthcare organizations must better understand how their patient information is collected and where it is stored. Digital data is of course affected, but this change also affects paper records.

Many companies are concerned that GDPR will severely impact their ability to engage with customers and prospects, owing to the new restrictions on right to erasure, right to be informed and right to object. However, given the backdrop of hackers, data breaches from multiple household names and concern about how social media companies use our personal information, GDPR presents a great opportunity to reset relationships and build trust between companies, staff and customers or patients.

With data collected at points ranging from doctor’s surgeries to specialized healthcare organizations, the data footprint of an individual is usually highly fragmented.

One of the core components of the GDPR is ensuring that there’s more available information about the purpose and location of any data that’s collected. This means healthcare providers will have a more detailed view of their patients, which could lead to better and more accurate diagnosis, as well as more targeted treatments at lower cost.

Mandating that patient data has more structure could be hugely beneficial to HCPs. The GDPR places a framework around how this data can be collected, used and in which scenarios it must be deleted, but individual patient care should benefit from reduced fragmentation.

Putting patients in control

Healthcare is the one area of our lives that has remained highly sensitive and private. But test results are often shared widely to reach a diagnosis, with the patient having little insight into how this information is collected, who has access to it and how it is stored. GDPR places individuals firmly in charge of their data.

From data insights to better prevention

The success of modern Healthcare business also depends on big data with the compilation of fragmented health data sets which will generate new clinical, genetic and behavioral profiles

The masses of data that healthcare organizations have been collecting for decades are still often unstructured and inaccessible. The ideas behind big data and how it can unlock the insights contained with healthcare information is a major reason why GDPR could offer the healthcare industry a huge opportunity. The insights that come from the drive to structure and integrate data could accelerate new therapies and boost moves to improve prevention.

Overall, the GDPR is a reason for the health sector to be excited – it could help unlock the potential in huge stores of data that have remained dormant for decades.

Protection by Design

Cybersecurity tends to be an afterthought and is typically implemented after IT processes already are established. This can’t happen with GDPR. The EU wants to see evidence that there is “protection by design,” meaning applications are built in such a way that privacy is part of the original framework or architecture. Unfortunately, that’s not a very common practice in today’s world, as most organizations handle their cybersecurity with a reactionary approach. For some, this will be one of the most challenging aspects of the regulation. Either way, the regulation states that organizations must implement “reasonable” data protection measures that support both security and privacy. What is meant by “reasonable?” That’s the million-dollar question. It’s going to be the responsibility of organizations to define what “reasonable” actually means.

Healthcare organizations, in particular, will benefit from compliance even if they are not based in the EU. The healthcare industry has been a prime target for cybercriminals for years, with attacks ranging from business email compromise schemes to data breaches.

So complying with the regulation is favorable for healthcare organizations on many levels: They will avoid non-compliance fines, be better protected against hackers, have better protection for valuable customer and enterprise data, and have an advantage over other organizations that don’t offer clients the same level of security.