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Medical practitioners emphasise the importance of patient data

November 6, 2018 • Healthcare

Common backup blunders - how even the smallest error can cost you your data

Marius Maritz, Department Manager for CloudProtect at Gabsten Technologies

Today, data forms the crux of businesses whether driving insights or being used to understand and better serve customers. In terms of the medical industry, patient data is especially critical. This is because Doctors rely upon patient information such as medical histories, diagnoses, treatments and medication data to help them treat their patients.

It’s critical that this information, usually of a sensitive and personal nature, is not only accessible, but also is kept safe. Even so, a doctor’s primary focus is – and should be – patient care. Few doctors have the time, let alone the IT skills, to ensure their patient’s information is sufficiently protected.

Dr Samantha Parish, a CloudProtect client based in Pretoria, says, “I type a lot of documents and patient reports on my laptop every day, during and after consults. I need to know that, if anything happens to my laptop, my information is backed up and secure. In addition, I need to know that I can get the information back easily again in the event that is it lost.”

Beyond the need to access, secure and store patient information, doctors are required by law to retain patient records for seven years. Dr Parish says that she has almost eleven thousand patients on file. Keeping the records of so many patients for that length of time takes up a lot of storage space, especially as records such as X-rays and scans are typically large files.

“With the number of patients I see, whether regularly or not, I have trouble remembering everyone’s information. I need to be able to call up their data quickly at any time, either during a consult or to pass on records and feedback to any referred specialists,” adds Dr Parish.

Marius Maritz, Department Manager for CloudProtect at Gabsten Technologies, says that data loss can happen to anyone at any time, and medical practitioners are no exception.

“Data can be lost or become unavailable for a number of reasons, including natural disasters, theft of hardware, human error, loss of power and – more and more frequently – cybercrime,” says Maritz. “Medical practitioners understand the importance of protecting and storing patient data but, unfortunately, most tend to back-up their data to an external hard drive or a disc.”

While these backup methods are better than nothing, they aren’t fool proof. Hard drives and discs can be lost, stolen or damaged, and viruses which affect data can be transferred to the backup device. They can also take up precious time spent backing up and recovering data, which doctors can better spend on patient care.

“My day is typically filled with back-to-back appointments, and I don’t often have the time to back-up properly. Finding the information I need for a particular patient can also be time consuming. Using a cloud storage service means that my data automatically backs up, and it’s easy to access what I need quickly, when I need it,” says Dr Parish. “I also feel more secure knowing that my data is kept off-site, so if something happens at my practice, I know my data will still be there.”

Cloud data storage typically offers a number of added benefits beyond data storage. It offers additional protection in the form of security measures, and often comes with redundancy options where two copies of a customer’s data is kept in separate locations.

“Data stored on the cloud is also indexed, ensuring that it is easily retrievable, and available and accessible from anywhere,” adds Maritz. “Medical professionals are able to easily share files to colleagues or referred specialists, and can access patient data if they are off site, such as when a doctor is on call from home or attending to patients in hospital and not at their rooms.”

Data storage is critical for any business, and outsourcing this service to a service provider ensures that businesses can focus on their core function without having to worry about the safety of their data.

“With cloud storage, medical practitioners can automate their back-ups to happen as regularly as needed, access their data easily from anywhere, and ensure they are adhering to data regulations which protects them against penalties in the event of a data breach.

“Doctors, dentists, mental healthcare professionals and other medical practitioners have important work to do – they have enough to worry about without needing to worry about their data, too, which is where cloud data storage and protection services come in,” concludes Maritz.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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