Challenges and Opportunities in Data Quality, Privacy, and Security
OXON HILL, MD—As we are seeing at the Global Digital Health Forum this week, many countries and organizations are testing ways that mHealth can extend the reach of Internet-based health information systems to mobile devices. Health systems are transitioning from paper-based systems to more real-time reporting of routine health data by health workers (Labrique, Vasudevan, Kochi, Fabriquant, & Mehl, 2013). This involves the use of mobile devices such as phones to collect data transmitted to a server that aggregates data across many sites and levels.
For mHealth to assume a fully integrated role in healthcare, it must be provided in a way that gives patients and providers confidence that patient privacy will be protected and the confidentiality and security of patient information will be assured. Data need to be credible and consistent, and collected and stored securely in a trusted electronic health record with managed access for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals (Kumar & Wambugu, 2015).
"We need to look more closely at three things,” said Sam Wambugu, senior health informatics specialist at MEASURE Evaluation, in a presentation at the forum. “Do we have enough resources? Where is our level of discourse on data privacy and security? Is new technology doing harm to patients?"
MEASURE Evaluation undertook an assessment to study how mobile phone user behavior among health workers in LMICs may affect data quality—including data privacy, security, and confidentiality. Data quality is critical to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of the HIS and the privacy of patients who share confidential information. The team studied reports in available peer-reviewed journals and gray literature, documented emerging best practices and challenges, and gathered insights through interviews and consultations in Kenya and Tanzania. Through this assessment, the research team identified technical issues associated with mobile technology that can affect data quality and security.
The upshot? Data quality and security in mHealth can be compromised by technical challenges, user behavior, and organizational limitations. Recommendations on how to address these types of challenges are available in the report, which is online at: https://www.measureevaluation.org/resources/publications/tr-16-140
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