Why Rebuilding Trust is the Key to innovation with Medical Data

Evelyn de Souza, Advisor Board member, Universal Patient KeyToday’s escalating attacks, vulnerabilities, data breaches, and losses have cut deeply across organizations and captured the attention of, regulators, investors and most importantly customers. In many cases, such data incidents have completely eroded customer trust in a company, its services and its employees. Data is increasingly a core component of the value of services or products that are delivered to customers. Consider a connected bathroom scale where weight loss or gain patterns might be transmitted from a scale to a backend cloud and where as part of the product, customers, manufacturers and their partner ecosystem might have the ability to study user weight patterns over periods of time. In many cases the ability to study medical data streams can result in lives being saved. However, in today’s hyper connected era, these data streams are more intimate than previous static medical and healthcare data and are a prime target for data thieves.

Despite a widespread recognition in the industry of the value and importance of consumer data, we live in a perpetual state of data insecurity. It’s not only about the high-profile data breaches but it’s also about data misuse and using data in ways that consumers may not have perceived that their data would be used. I sometimes come across disclaimers for medical data-driven products that not only are shrouded in legalese but may be misleading to consumers on intended
data uses. Sensitive data is often handled by well-intentioned employees who may not have been trained or have the tools to ensure that data is stored, transmitted and processed as it should be and who may find ways to avoid the hassle of corporate security measures.

Data is increasingly a core component of the value of services or products that are delivered to customers

As we head into 2018, I am advising organizations to:

1. Learn from your data insecurity history: Organizations have a tendency to want to bury the past especially when it hasn’t been stellar. However, knowing how medical data has been used and abused in the past is an indicator of how it might be compromised and disclosed in the future. Studying loss trends over time can help organizations forecast future losses and improve prevention and mitigation strategies.

2. Make data protection business-consumable and consumer digestible: This is a recurring theme in my writings. As leaders rush to adopt new data analytic applications, security and privacy need to partner much more strategically. The way that security classifies and treats data has to align to business and usage contexts. These contexts need to be transparent to consumers and not something that they feel tricked into or misled. It’s protecting data, transactions and building transparency that will help organizations win and retain customer trust in the long run.

3. Focus on sustainable compliance: Compliance to a myriad of healthcare regulations and standards has become an unwieldy path for most organizations to navigate. Additionally, some healthcare and medical regulations and standards were created for a time when records were primarily static versus the constant streams of data that are captured and processed today. I encourage businesses to focus on securing what matters most and going beyond what mere compliance. Focus on ways to anonymize data that fits with the use cases and that your organization will be able to sustain going forward. Explore ways to create a chain of custody over data that will help provide on-going assurances to consumers, regulators and executives alike that sensitive medial data is appropriately secured and not misused.

Being able to analyse and learn from medical data can result in greater innovations and more lives being saved. And, the time to rebuild consumer trust is now.