Gone are the times when people took a passive role in their healthcare. Modern patients prefer taking the reins to learn about their health conditions, participate in treatment decision-making, cut medical expenses, and improve outcomes.
The latest technologies, including healthcare apps and IoT devices like wearables, enable people to track their health and share relevant data with healthcare professionals.
However, that data has reached overwhelming amounts, creating significant data management challenges for healthcare organizations utilizing cloud computing.
Here are the crucial ways to overcome them, regardless of whether you’re a healthcare business owner, manager, data analyst, data scientist, or cybersecurity analyst.
#1 Set proper storage mechanisms in place
According to ReportLinker’s 2022 report, the global healthcare data storage market will reach $9.23 billion by 2026, nearly doubling its projected 2022 value of $4.92 billion.
The growing healthcare data volume could cause problems without proper storage solutions. Here’s what you can do.
Make data protection and resilience a priority
Data resilience is vital in healthcare because equipment failures, power outages, and potential cyberattacks can disrupt operations and lead to hefty fines, public scrutiny, and business losses. Most importantly, losing medical data or accessing corrupted records could compromise patients’ safety.
Your cloud infrastructure makes data resilient because it stores it in multiple locations, helping you recover it quickly and without losses. However, you must protect all those locations.
Data protection is paramount because you keep patient records with personal and sensitive information. Safeguarding their demographics, medical history, diagnoses, medications, test results, and billing data with backups and replication is what keeps patients safe.
You can manage quality and security in the cloud with regular testing and security mechanisms, such as:
- Virtual private clouds – VPCs isolate data within a public cloud environment for better security, performance, scalability, and seamless hybrid cloud deployment.
- Firewalls with custom cybersecurity rules – Firewalls monitor inbound traffic for suspicious activity using predefined security rules. You can customize them for higher security to protect against cyberattacks like cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection (malicious codes that could interfere with your database).
- Database encryption – This process converts information in your database into cipher text, making it incomprehensible without the decryption key.
- Server-side encryption – This process encrypts data on its remote server, providing an extra protection layer.
- Role-based access control – RBAC is a security approach allowing only authorized users to access a specific network.
- Secure File Transfer Protocol – SFTP is a network protocol using the cryptographic SSH (Secure Socket Shell) network communication protocol and FTP commands to secure remote file access, transfer, and management. It protects sensitive information in the cloud and prevents data breaches.
Find a storage platform that supports VNA integrations
A VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) is medical imaging technology for integrating patient records into a centralized repository for easy access and consolidation. It stores documents and images in a standard format, enabling seamless data exchange among healthcare professionals.
A VNA ensures excellent interoperability, enabling users to access and share data from multiple devices and locations. That improves clinical decision-making, reduces readmissions, and enhances the patient experience.
A storage platform that supports VNA integrations will eliminate the need for additional data centers and reduce your capital expenses.
Ensure data storage compliance
Many healthcare laws and regulations have data privacy and security requirements for storing protected health information (PHI) in the cloud. The most notable include:
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – This federal law protects PHI through specific use and disclosure limits and conditions.
- The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act – This law extends the HIPAA privacy and security rules, encouraging healthcare organizations to implement electronic health records (EHRs) and increasing HIPAA violation fines.
- The HITRUST CSF (Common Security Framework) – The Health Information Trust Alliance CSF helps healthcare organizations and cloud service providers achieve regulatory compliance, manage risks, and protect sensitive cloud data.
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) – This set of standards helps organizations across all industries that process, store, and transfer cardholder data with protection from theft and fraud.
They require protecting data with role-based access control, two-factor authentication (2FA), audit logging and monitoring, data encryption, transmission protection, and many other practices.
Read through these and other relevant regulations to understand how to ensure data security compliance and avoid hefty fines and potential criminal lawsuits.
A scalable storage solution is a must-have for healthcare organizations as their extensive data keeps growing. Unstructured data is the most challenging to manage because it lacks predefined formats and models.
It includes MRIs, PET scans, X-rays, CT scans, images, videos, audio files, doctors’ notes in EMRs (Electronic Medical Records), patient-generated health data (PGHD), telehealth communications, and biosignal data like ECG, ABP, and CVP, etc.
Digital systems and analytics tools can’t read and analyze it without previous processing and cleansing.
Managing unstructured data requires a scalable solution that won’t break the bank because this data accounts for 80% of healthcare information. It also calls for standardized data collection, classification, visualization, and quality assurance.
#2 Track your data sources
Healthcare companies handle multiple data sources, including EHRs, patient portals, social media, medical journals, insurance providers, healthcare apps, and wearable devices.
Those sources make data management time-consuming and daunting without proper storage, labeling, and tracking. Here’s how to overcome that challenge.
Use a healthcare data analytics platform
Healthcare data analytics software analyzes data to identify trends and provide actionable insights for data-driven decision-making. It can help improve efficiency, service quality, patient care, medical outcomes, and overall performance.
Here are some of the top benefits of utilizing it:
- Predicting patient loads for better resource allocation
- Taking proactive steps for preventative care
- Getting real-time alerts for prescriptive decisions
- Making accurate diagnoses
- Personalizing treatments
- Reducing readmissions
- Identifying and eliminating operational inefficiencies
- Improving financial planning due to intelligent data alerts
- Preventing fraud and inaccurate insurance claims
- Gaining insights on employee performance
- Improving supply chain management
- Developing new treatments
- Monitoring widespread diseases
Validate all patient-generated health data
Patient-generated health data (PGHD) comes from surveys, questionnaires, remote monitoring devices, mobile apps, and wearables. It includes medical history, symptoms, treatments, biometric data, patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and other health-related data.
It provides insights into patients’ health and well-being, helping improve their safety, care, and treatments. It also supports telemedicine, enabling physicians to schedule virtual follow-ups when necessary.
However, patients can make mistakes when reporting symptoms or other health-related changes. Healthcare professionals must validate PGHD before including it in their EHRs and PRM (Patient Relationship Management) systems.
Many EHRs already have questionnaires like PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Information Systems) you can send to patients to validate PGHD. You can also create your own, with custom fields for structured data.
Another solution is to assemble a team of clinicians to validate the data according to your PGHD policies. They can ensure only valuable information enters the EHRs from trusted sources. You can then classify it for seamless access and retrieval.
Standardize your data
Data standardization is vital because healthcare professionals share patient information across departments and organizations. Storing inconsistent information from multiple data sources can lead to errors when making diagnoses, prescribing medications, and providing treatments.
Convert patient data into a standard format to streamline knowledge-sharing, interpretation, collaboration, and in-depth analytics. That includes external sources and existing data that you must filter and organize.
#3 Use automation to streamline workflows
Running a clinic, hospital, or another healthcare organization can be hectic. You must maintain patient records and supplies, process payments, and complete other administrative tasks while providing excellent patient care.
Using automation to streamline workflows can reduce the risk of human error, increase efficiency, enhance patient care and safety, and help comply with the laws and regulations.
What workflows can you automate?
The best workflows you can automate are appointment scheduling and management, reporting, EHR maintenance, admission, and discharge. They’re time-consuming and repetitive, and automating them will save you considerable time.
Medical coding, billing, revenue cycle management, inventory management, and insurance claims (both in the pre-authorization and processing stages) are also ripe for automation.
Find the right solutions
You can use many healthcare automation solutions to boost efficiency, cut costs, and enhance patient care. Some use RPA (Robotic Process Automation), others rely on AI (Artificial Intelligence), while some combine them to provide IDP (Intelligent Document Processing).
Combining those three with machine learning, cognitive computing, and natural language processing (NLP) brings Intelligent Automation (IA) to manage and optimize extensive workloads.
You can choose from many systems, but custom healthcare software might be the best solution. Whether you need an EHR or EMR system, a healthcare app, or any other tool to improve operations, tailor-made software can suit your needs perfectly and help you reach your goals.
Healthcare data management is challenging enough without storing patient and business information in multiple, cloud-based locations. However, cloud solutions increase data security and resilience, making them more than worth the investment.
Remember to create a culture around data privacy and security to ensure they’re top priorities for everyone in your organization. Strategically managing your data will improve service quality, patient communication, and medical outcomes.