Connectivity and secure connection
Processes and procedures in the healthcare sector are becoming increasingly computerised and automated. The sector is evolving towards a completely electronic patient record. Good connectivity is essential for providing data access to the various parties who need patient information, such as general practitioners and pharmacists. Connections provided by professional data centers are, by definition, excellent. That’s not always the case for internal, non-professional data centers or server rooms. The connection to the data is often more important than the connection to the hospital itself. If there are few connection possibilities on site at a healthcare institution, it’s also an option to store all the data at a different location (e.g., at a data center), and provide access to that information via a secure connection. This can be done via a VPN (virtual private network), a secure connection that allows you to consult or send data fast and in real time. Doctors or nursing institutions can also exchange data with other health institutions or the government via a VPN. Data that are sent via an insufficiently secure internet connection, on the other hand, can be intercepted and abused.
If hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes or other healthcare institutions merge, the easiest way to provide all parties with access to the information is to centralise the data. This simplifies security processes and makes it easier to stay ‘GDPR compliant’. It’s also much easier to manage a single system and software. Centralising data is a great opportunity to bring everything under one roof in a data center.
If, for instance, a hospital has a server room in its cellars, that poses a safety risk for the rest of the building. After all, patients are less mobile, which makes the evacuation process more difficult. The fire brigade may decide to carry out expensive modifications to the building, or even to close the hospital due to the risk of a fire breaking out in the server room. A hospital has to comply with stricter requirements than an ordinary company.
Hospitals may also fall victim to a false sense of security. Some healthcare institutions store their data in the public cloud. They then encrypt them and think that they’re safe. But that is not enough. Any form of encryption can be cracked. Only the private cloud is secure. For comparison: 79% of listed companies are already using a private cloud, and that usually concerns non-personal information for which the GDPR regulation doesn’t actually apply.
What does the future hold for information in the healthcare sector?
The healthcare sector keeps evolving, as is evident from the development of health apps and other technological innovations. These changes may have implications for data storage. Robots are already packing medication for individual patients, which means that it is hugely important that external suppliers and pharmacists have constant, secure and mutually agreed upon access to the most up-to-date patient data.
Backups too should always be up to date. There are also a number of devices, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps, which can be controlled remotely, i.e., they connect to the data center of the company that controls them. A secure connection and secure data storage are absolutely essential for maintaining access to the data and preventing tools or implants from being hacked.
Thanks to Luc Seyssens, telecom and connectivity specialist and member of the board of directors of various health authorities.