Is mHealth compatible with data protection?

In some countries, data protection continues to be used as an excuse used to protect the vested interests of many stakeholders within the health and care sector. The opportunity for a more "responsible patient", or the assurances that the well-being of patients should be the priority are thereby studiously ignored.

Data protection - an excuse to avoid moving forward?

By enabling such vested interests to fester, we do not only endanger the patient's life but also prevent much needed innovations in order to advance new treatment approaches such as personalised medicine.

There will never be 100% data protection for healthcare irrespective of whether we use paper-based or digital solutions. However, it is my opinion that it should be the patient's decision whether and what data is collected and stored in digital format and whether they wish to trust digital solutions such as mHealth or telemedicine. It also seems important to me that only the patient alone can decide to whom their digital health data is disclosed.

Let’s move away from past arguments

This has long been technologically feasible and there are also good, reliable solution for secure data transmission and storage. Other countries such as Denmark and, since the end of last year, Austria are already doing this. In the countries where digital health and mHealth are well-implemented, one thing is present above all: confidence in the security and benefits of new technologies.

We can - including in view of the demographic situation - only properly maintain quality and efficiency in healthcare if we implement cross-sectoral, digital communication. To create this culture, above all, a model by politics, doctors, nurses and cost bearers is needed. These groups are very clearly responsible for creating change - for the health and benefit of patients.

The 100% discussion

Policy-makers and stakeholders must provide the framework for this. Within this framework, data protection will also need to have its place. This also means that we need to move away from the maximum demand of 100% security - otherwise there will be no change and no innovation.

There is no question that digitisation will happen in healthcare - no-one is going to put the genie back in the bottle. The point is rather that we now seize the opportunity to make this change. This is especially true for data security, because it would not be worthwhile if we left this entirely to uncontrolled growth.

A balance must therefore be created without the "homicide arguments" from the past.

Ultimately, the "100% discussion" about data protection is as absurd as the question of whether an ambulance with flashing lights should run a red light.

Rainer Herzog, General Manager DACH, HIMSS Europe GmbH
Rainer Herzog, General Manager DACH, HIMSS Europe GmbH