Collecting large volumes of sensitive data is necessary in many industries, particularly healthcare. In fact, approximately 30% of the world’s data volume is generated by the healthcare industry.
When you’re dealing with large quantities of sensitive data, privacy regulations and information security is critically important.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union-wide law that affects every company collecting and storing UK citizens' data regardless of where they're located. The regulation sets strict regulations for the protection of personal data, which include among others:
- The right to be informed about how your data will be used and protected,
- The right to access your personal data,
- The right to erasure if you don't want your personal information stored anymore,
- The right to restrict the processing if you think your rights have been violated.
As a healthcare provider in the UK, you are required to comply with the UK GDPR, but what does that mean?
In this article, we'll break down what the requirements are, why they're important in healthcare, and how to meet them.
What is the impact of the UK GDPR on healthcare?
The UK GDPR has made it more challenging for healthcare providers to protect personal data because they must manage data with clear structures and processes. This includes setting up guidelines that align with the GDPR's requirements on how your company collects, manages, stores, uses and protects data.
Healthcare providers need to show how they handle information, meet certain requirements—such as putting in place the right safeguards to protect information—and be more cautious with personal data knowing where it is stored and how it is processed.
All of this applies to both the public and private sectors.
Different fields of healthcare that should implement these procedures include:
- Hospitals and clinics
- Dental care
- Nursing homes
- Diagnostic laboratories
- E-shops that sell pharmaceuticals
Now that you know how GDPR affected the healthcare industry, let’s look at why the UK GDPR is important in the first place.
Why is the UK GDPR important in healthcare?
The UK GDPR is essential for all industries that aim to operate in the UK, but it’s especially relevant in healthcare. Here are 3 main reasons why:
- Easier management of data
The UK GDPR works as a platform for InfoSec experts in the need for a renewed focus on data management. This increases awareness and promotes compliance as a company-wide effort.
- Encouraging senior leaders to talk about data risks
By doing this, you can make plans for actions that need to be taken at the corporate level. This also sets an example for your employees across your company to follow in their daily operations.
- Protection from cybercriminals
For years, healthcare companies have been highly targeted by ransomware, phishing, malicious spam, and more. Having a plan to deal with these issues ensures business continuity and the protection of highly sensitive and confidential patient information.
Personal Data in Healthcare Industry
Medical records include such sensitive information that the GDPR gooverns it is necessary to classify them as a special category of personal data and to require even more protective measures than any other personal data.
The three categories of personal data listed in the GDPR are particularly important to the healthcare industry:
- Data concerning health
- Genetic data
- Biometric data
What are some requirements of the UK GDPR for healthcare companies?
The UK GDPR requires healthcare providers to meet certain requirements, including:
- Requirement 1: Providing proof of data protection
Under the UK GDPR, healthcare providers must ensure that they meet public authorities' requirements and show that they are protecting patient information properly. It includes establishing more straightforward processes, better documentation, and following more transparent decision-making about how data is used.
- Requirement 2: Informing patients of their rights
Patients should be aware of their rights, how, why, for how long, and by whom their health-related personal data is processed. How you deliver this information in an effective and easily understood, transparent way is the primary requirement.
- Requirement 3: Responding to cyber security breaches
In the event of a cyber incident, healthcare providers and their supply chains must find and test their incident response management plans to protect their core business functions and keep critical infrastructure safe.
- Requirement 4: Managing vulnerable devices
There are many unsecured devices in homes and companies around the world. In healthcare, unsecured IoT (internet of things) devices include patient information, test results, and medical images. Using devices with built-in security or installing solutions to secure your data is important.
While considering these requirements and how they might impact your operations, it is essential to look into several options to find a solution that works for your company.
How can you meet the requirements?
There are many ways to meet these requirements. Some of them are designed to be effective for most companies, but it is also worth spending extra time to customising each solution according to your company’s operations. Here are 4 ways to do so:
Providing proof of data protection
There are 5 steps to showing that your company is fully GDPR compliant. They are:
- Understanding who will be responsible for developing and implementing the programme.
- Conducting a gap analysis of your compliance posture and act on the results.
- Establishing a timeline for implementation, audit, and review.
- Increasing awareness at the board level to ensure that your company’s executive team supports the necessary changes required for GDPR compliance.
- Raise awareness among employees of the changes imposed by the GDPR and their responsibility towards them
Informing patients of their rights
Informing your patients can be done in writing or electronically. The UK GDPR states that so-called ‘standardised image symbols’ can also give a meaningful overview of the intended processing.
If personal information isn't collected from the data subject, there isn't always necessary to tell them. This is applicable in three possible scenarios:
- Giving out the information is either impossible or too expensive,
- Gathering or sending the information is required by law,
- The data must be kept secret because of professional secrecy or other legal requirements.
Responding to cyber security breaches
If a breach occurs, you must show that you considered the risks and implemented the appropriate controls. You should also think about whether your supply chain meets standards like ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus.
Managing vulnerable devices
Given the shared nature of cloud-based systems in healthcare, only those who need patient data must have access. Two-factor authentication or single sign-on can help protect patient data when accessing files.
By developing multiple compliance solutions, including backup solutions, you can stay prepared for future challenges in the case of an emergency and avoid serious consequences.
What are the consequences if you fail to comply with the UK GDPR?
Healthcare companies are used to handling sensitive data, but that doesn't mean they are immune to data breaches.
In fact, more fines were issued in the health sector in the last year than in the previous five reporting periods combined. These fines can range from 4% of revenue or £17 million, whichever is greater.
It is also important to remember that UK GDPR fines are only some of the possible consequences you can face.
Today, patients have more control over their data, and the UK GDPR has made it easier for patients to file claims for breaches. Having a data breach and losing patient information can impact the long-term trust patients place in your company in the future.
While avoiding these consequences is a crucial part of being compliant, GDPR can also be used to look at how you currently handle data and make sure you have more control and visibility.
How can DataGuard help your healthcare company comply with the UK GDPR?
Data privacy is of paramount importance for healthcare companies, and DataGuard's data privacy platform is here to help you stay on top of it. Using the platform, you can:
- Save time by automating repetitive tasks and breezing through everyday GDPR compliance challenges.
- Accurately map your data processing activities, maintain compliance, and use our platform as a running log of your compliance efforts.
- Quickly get started with zero hassle for setup or integration.
Compliance is a journey, and we can help you get there. Get in touch with our experts for more information.