Data is a huge asset and it brings with it requirements and responsibilities on a similar scale.

In many ways, the process challenges facing clinical laboratories are the same as those that affect any organisation, which means that the solution will also be similar. But, of course, how it affects them and how the solutions are applied will need to be tailored to suit the specific priorities and requirements of a laboratory environment.


Big Data in Healthcare

Just as clinical laboratories are not isolated units away from the wider healthcare system but are integral and vital components in that system, so the data they generate can also be more widely utilized if it is properly managed. The Journal of Pathology Informatics paper, ‘Clinical laboratory analytics: Challenges and promise for an emerging discipline’ reminds us that, “The clinical laboratory is a major source of healthcare data… Increasingly these data are being integrated with other data to inform health system-wide actions meant to improve diagnostic test utilization, service efficiency, and increase ‘meaningful use’.”

But with big data comes big responsibilities; as Tissue Pathology asks, “….what is the best way for healthcare organizations to go store and analyze these huge volumes of digital images safely and effectively?” And that ‘safety’ issue takes us to two major considerations: cyber security and pathology laboratories and something referred to by the snappy acronym GDPR, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Even though the UK is leaving the European Union, any organisation that wishes to share or collaborate with an EU organisation will need to comply; that will include laboratories engaged in collaborative research programmes. As IBM’s paper on GDPR makes clear, “The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) seeks to create a harmonised data protection law framework across the EU and aims to give citizens back the control of their personal data, whilst imposing strict rules on those hosting and ‘processing’ this data, anywhere in the world.” (author’s emphasis).

Cyber Security and Clinical Laboratories

Whether it’s because their levels of security are perceived as low or because their disruption will cause disproportionate distress or because their systems are sometimes out of date, the healthcare sector in general seems attractive to hackers and cyber criminals. The May 2017 attacks on UK NHS systems was a warning of what might be to come and the fact that the malware got in on the backs of emails made it even more worrying. On the other side of the Atlantic, Medical Laboratory Observer tells us that, “Data breaches in the United States healthcare industry cost $6.2 billion each year.

Over the past two years, roughly 90 percent of hospitals have reported a security breach.” The article continues to add that, ” With expanding connectivity of information systems, laboratory work stations, and instruments to the internet, the need to secure laboratory information is critical.” Read full article

The above is an excerpt of an article in Global Business Media publication, Special Report: Improving Laboratory Operations and Efficiencies, written by Peter Dunwell, Medical Correspondent. To read the article in full click here