Traditional methods for managing the growing deluge of health data simply do not scale any more. Whether observational, research data or medical, clinical imaging, telemetry data or patient-generated consumer device data, healthcare organisations face increasing risks, compliance obligations and data-related IT management tasks.
As a result of the variety and scale of data there are many long-term data management challenges that the NHS faces as a big data holder. More of its processes are digital; therefore it becomes critical to build effective governance over access to and sharing of data, compliance with regulations and long-term bit-level data integrity in order to identify, quantify and mitigate any associated risks.
Any systemic deficits in the management of the longitudinal patient data lifecycle can be exposed by new regulations, the need for quality reporting and future patient engagements. Given the value of healthcare data, new approaches to Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) are essential.
Whilst scarce resources typically limit healthcare organisations’ ability to handle this internally, the productivity benefits which drive integrated IT services can also create unacceptable operational risks without specialist products and services. First, it is essential to understand and adhere to your ILM process. For those not familiar, ILM is a comprehensive approach to managing the flow of an information system's data from creation and initial storage to the time when it becomes obsolete.
Unlike earlier approaches to data storage management, ILM involves all aspects of dealing with data, starting with user practices, rather than simply automating storage procedures. By comparison to older storage-based methodologies, ILM should develop a chain of custody and more complex criteria for storage management which both help to understand the data going into the archive, and to provide effective governance over it.
NHS Trusts are responsible under the Public Records Acts, the Data Protection Act 1998, and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to ensure that all records, manual or electronic, personal or non-personal are created, maintained, used and disposed of in line with the requirements of these Acts. ILM policy forms part of the requirements of the NHS Information Governance Toolkit and is an important component in any healthcare organisations’ data management strategy.
The ILM policy sets out standards for meeting these needs. It provides best practice guidelines for recordkeeping, including all health and non-health information captured in any document format or media type and file size, as well as establishing the security and confidentiality of the Trust’s data.
ILM solutions automate the processes involved, typically organising data into separate tiers according to specified policies. The ILM approach recognizes that the importance of any data does not rely solely on its age or how often it is accessed. Users can specify different policies for data that declines in value at different rates or that retains its value throughout its life span.
Trusts understand the importance of the data lifecycle, and due to the various risks accrued over a long-term storage retention period, best practice should involve a risk assessment of their particular organization’s data lifecycle. Long-term preservation and management of digital datasets is a specialist process.
(About the author: Daniel Hickmore is a health subject matter expert at Arkivum)
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