By Gary Lyng, Chief Marketing Officer at Aparavi |

Healthcare providers play an incredibly important role in keeping people safe, but they also generate huge amounts of protected consumer data. While providers staff treat patients and process billing, there is an enormous data operation occurring behind the scenes storing sensitive patient health, payment, personal, and other electronic health records, and many providers don’t have the infrastructure and tools to analyze unstructured data, don’t know what data they are storing, and are often paying costly data infrastructure bills for data that can be deleted.

Electronic health records, while protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), are frequently accessed, and shared by various staff at hospitals, primary care staff, researchers, regulators, and others who need the most updated information available to make critical decisions and store medical notes – much of which is unstructured and outside of a database or application control. For data teams managing the constant flow of information, the right data technology helps hospitals and provider practices improve workflow, reduce risk with more precise and risk-free automated classification, and learn where all information is stored to ensure essential security and uninterrupted data access.

Leverage the Right Data

Of the many headaches in U.S. healthcare today, the reliance on legacy technology and outdated data management practices is a major concern for healthcare data managers. Replicated information, redundant, obsolete, and trivial data (ROT), and addressing security concerns complicate hinder innovation and implementing data best practices. As healthcare organizations invest billions each year in electronic health record storage, smaller medical practices aren’t able to and often rely on the digital storage infrastructure they invested in years ago. Even as many practices migrate to the cloud, data is often “dumped” into the cloud by staff without considering the value of the data and certainly not the costs. Without sophisticated software, the data’s value is often diluted by indiscriminate continuous dumping without best practices.

Healthcare organizations that have not put the necessary data management practices in place are missing a tremendous opportunity to impact their own decision-making process and the overall performance of their practices. As these organizations adopt more value-based care delivery models, providers must leverage their data to improve patient experience and outcomes, reduce data costs, data risk, and exploit the value of data already in their possession.

The first step is to identify what data you’re storing and build a data plan. Conduct a deep dive into your data and leverage those insights to mitigate risk, reduce and avoid costs and create value for your healthcare organization. For many practices and larger health enterprises, mounds of “dark data,” or a large amount of redundant and useless information that should be deleted, goes unused and is key to unlocking valuable insights for operational efficiency. Taking the initial step to identify relevant data allows organizations to implement the best data management practices and unlock the value of their data.

Utilize Data Analytics & Business Intelligence Tools

The rise of unstructured data puts additional strain on older data management and systems. Older systems can’t run simple searches, nor can they provide deep dive into document content, invoices, email, images, media, text data, and more. When it comes to how healthcare is delivered, the main goal for providers is to manage the cost, quality of care, and patient experience – but doing so involves making a provider’s job easier to access any data, anywhere. Utilizing a sophisticated digital platform that can analyze unstructured data is paramount to how practices and hospitals manage data in the future, especially if data is highly distributed, fragmented, and stored on local and cloud-based platforms.

Understand HIPAA Compliance & Healthcare Classification Policies

HIPAA compliance applies to any organization that collects protected health information (PHI) that could be considered “individually identifiable,” also known as a “Covered Entity.” Covered entities under HIPAA include independent medical practitioners, health insurance providers, business associates, or anyone with access to PHI, which includes lawyers, accountants, and even IT service providers such as cloud storage operators or email service providers.

It does not matter how the PHI is provided. Even paper records and oral conversations between patients and staff qualify. As healthcare providers store more data that can’t be analyzed by legacy systems, many programs today need human input and manual classification to protect PHI. Human error can be costly, and it’s important to protect PHI will technology that can automatically classify HIPPA information.

Additionally, legacy systems can’t identify where data is stored to prevent leaks, nefarious or accidental. According to the Ponemon Institute, 54% of healthcare vendors have experienced at least one known data breach exposing their protected patient data. Of those who had experienced a breach, 41% had experienced more than six data breaches over the past two years. Most alarmingly, an average healthcare data breach costs $2.75 million (more than any other industry) and exposes nearly 10,000 records.

All providers must know what data they have and what information they’re storing before integrating new technology infrastructure or services. It’s important to know whether your value is truly understood, how much overhead cost deleting ROT data can save before integrating new software systems, and learning where your data is located. As more data is ingested and stored, automatic and intelligent classification and automated action are essential to minimizing compliance risk with HIPPA and any legal regulations.

About the Author

Gary Lyng is the Chief Marketing Officer of Aparavi, a data intelligence and automation SaaS-platform. Aparavi helps companies find and unlock the value of data – no matter where it lives.

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