Achieving digital health transformation through the creation of a fully interoperable data ecosystem is nirvana for health systems around the world.

In particular, as part of the recently announced reforms to the New Zealand health system, Health NZ will ensure health services will be integrated and linked so that consumers can find it easier to access different parts of the system, and not have to share their information numerous times.

But with a fully integrated and interoperable healthcare system comes a crucial component: data sharing. It’s impossible to achieve the kind of ideal we envisage without provision for data sharing.

Interoperability = data sharing + privacy and security

However, with data sharing comes the profound responsibility for protecting the detailed personal health information of thousands, if not millions, of patients. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) recently published their first four months of results since it became mandatory to report serious breaches in December 2020. The health care and social sector tops the list for the highest number of serious privacy breaches since that date.

Whilst it’s likely this is the case because the industry understands its obligation to protect precious patient information and report any breaches, an article published in The Lancet last year revealed that there is significant public concern regarding the risks involved in data sharing. In particular, when, why and how health data are shared in the context of data sharing for contact tracing and vaccination roll out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem is the risks posed by data sharing 

The COVID-19 public health emergency has undeniably demonstrated the value in data sharing – arguably, New Zealand owes its globally lauded pandemic response to the rapid collection, analysis, modelling and reporting of health data; reporting that our own data science team has contributed to. Such a swift and effective public health response simply could not be achieved without data sharing of the highest security and privacy.

Orion Health Director of Research and CEO of Precision Driven Health, Dr Kevin Ross, has written about the importance of collecting and sharing good quality health data, arguing that the risk to privacy is a legitimate concern, but that it shouldn’t preclude us from pursuing this ideal:

“Asking our health providers to act without good data is like telling someone not to wear glasses because they could get broken. It lowers the quality of care they can offer and allows pre-existing problems to worsen.”

Dr Kevin Ross, Director of Research, Orion Health

The solution is robust privacy measures

The solution to this problem is, of course, robust and rigorous privacy and security measures. Orion Health products, solutions and services are trusted, and comply with the regional privacy laws of countries in which we operate, such as the GDPR in Europe and HIPAA in the US.

Our Privacy Principles ensure our products, solutions and services are developed and built around these standards, which means they are private and secure by design. For example, this type of advanced privacy implementation provides granular access to information based on user roles and the sensitivity of the data. Functionality like this means that the risk of precious health data being accessible to anyone except those who truly need it is hugely reduced.

Interested in learning more about Orion Health’s Privacy Principles?