E-health systems ‘must be aware of data protection issues’

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Any organisation dealing with sensitive patient information must have security procedures in place to safeguard data.

Legal document storage is a pertinent issue for any organisation that deals with sensitive client information, which is why Australia’s Health Department has flagged up issues with the e-health system used to store patients’ records.

According to The Australian, health chief information officer Paul Madden has explained that clinical data will be encrypted while it is being transmitted between medical staff or patients and the national infrastructure, but security risks increase at the point of viewing.

He told a Cybersafety for Seniors inquiry: "The mitigations are about consumer or health-provider information and education about securing and eradicating the risks that exist at the PC level.

"We need to take every step we can to make sure that everybody’s informed of the need for end-to-end security, and what their part in that may be to ensure that we have dealt with the risks as best we possibly can."

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Department of Health has welcomed an independent review by Dame Fiona Caldicott into the data protection policies practised by the NHS.

Kurt Long, founder and chief executive of FairWarning, said it is "great to see the NHS giving a high priority to patient privacy", as this is a critical issue.

"This review could lead to a future in which patient data can be shared securely throughout the NHS, and where the reputations of healthcare providers are not under threat from the constant risk of serious breaches," he added.

"Unless security is treated as the fundamental underpinning of electronic healthcare systems, there is a clear danger that continuing data breaches will damage public confidence, causing patients and NHS professionals to back away from electronic care."

Last September, the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust was heavily criticised after losing vital information concerning the treatment of 87 patients.

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