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Why patient data protection is key to…

Why patient data protection is key to…


The growing application of digital technologies, particularly data analytics, is revolutionizing healthcare delivery and patient centric care in India. Thanks to innovations, better patient care and treatment outcomes are being recorded.

The faster adoption and deployment of emerging technologies such as digital health applications, telemedicine and information exchange will further benefit both clinicians and patients. Despite these benefits and continuous innovation in healthcare, however, patient data protection is a crucial area that needs attention.

Significance of Patient Data Privacy

India’s present legal framework concerning protected health information (PHI) is governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000, together with the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011. Both these offer a degree of PHI safeguards. Yet, on account of the rapidly advancing IT technology, there are potential gaps in data security that could pose a threat to protected health information. Taking this into consideration, the government recently withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 from Parliament and is now working on a compressive framework to regulate the online space and to ensure enhanced data protection safeguards. The need to protect personally identifiable information (PII) and PHI is highly critical to spur innovations and scientific advancement in the healthcare space.

Today, the healthcare system functions differently due to digital health’s quick adoption. This facilitates paperless prescriptions, quicker claim processing and improved service accessibility. Patient data is saved in the cloud and shared with members of the healthcare ecosystem as a result of data liquidity and digital transformation. For patients, the results may be significantly improved by using large healthcare data. E-health data is currently governed by the rules outlined in the IT Act of 2000 and the IT Rules of 2011.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, DISHA is a new law that governs data security in healthcare services. DISHA is considered the counterpart of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was passed in 1996 and controls health data disclosure and usage in the US. DISHA was enacted to secure and standardize digital health information to maintain its privacy and confidentiality. While the purpose of this law is to encourage the pan-India adoption of e-health standards, it has not yet come into force.

National Health Stack and its Implications

Meanwhile, NITI Aayog – the Centre’s public policy think tank – has introduced the National Health Stack, which aims to develop digital health data for all citizens. The future of the healthcare ecosystem will be defined by the demands of various patient segments and their accompanying successful care journeys. Patients will be permitted to swap healthcare providers without jeopardizing continuity of care. It will also ensure that various healthcare institutions collaborate. Nevertheless, this can raise data privacy and data theft concerns. The more data is exchanged and kept, the more difficult will it be to govern and secure. Since the right of patients to privacy is critical, they may be concerned about the consequences if their confidential medical conditions are made public.

Currently, a patient’s data, including health information, is treated as sensitive personal data or information and provided greater protection than personal data under the IT Rules, 2011.

Securing Data to Accelerate Healthcare Access

Data breaches and cyberattacks are increasingly common in the digital age, jeopardizing patient data. As ‘coordinated care’ becomes a ground reality with the interoperability of healthcare data systems permitting patients to exchange digital health records with various clinicians, healthcare professionals will need to protect patient data diligently. Conversely, healthcare providers will be required to build a comprehensive mechanism to secure patients’ data.

Healthcare facilities must demonstrate their dedication to patient privacy and regulatory compliance to gain and retain patients’ confidence. As a HIPAA-compliant platform, the Content Cloud helps secure protected health information, earn the respect of patients and avoid infringement fines. The latest digital technology is vital for safeguarding sensitive patient data and lowering the risk of a breach or any unauthorized access.

The Centre now authorizes data fiduciaries to transmit information to companies or organizations outside India under Section 34, but only after the explicit consent of the data owner and under specified situations, such as health service or emergency assistance.

The Central Government may exclude any of its agencies from Bill’s riders to maintain the State’s security, public order, sovereignty and integrity, as well as for good ties with foreign governments. In a nutshell, data privacy in India’s current healthcare sector needs to be redefined in a way where it’s a winning proposition for both care professionals and patients.

In a nutshell, while the proposed Data Privacy Bill is an important step in developing a privacy ecosystem in India, which is key in healthcare, it is only the beginning. Healthcare facilities and hospitals must begin planning for this situation immediately.

Such initiatives will be ineffective, though, if the proper checks and balances aren’t in place to prevent database abuse or theft. Since healthcare data is by its very nature private, protecting that privacy must always be given priority. One can ascertain this prioritization endures as the country transitions to a digital future by meticulously crafting the right policy mechanisms and complex regulations.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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