Balancing Speed and Security in Patient Data Access

Improving Access to Private Health Information without Compromising Security

In an increasingly inter-connected world most people would be accustomed to having immediate access to most crucial information at the click of a button.


For many people, handling of protected information isn’t something they’d need to concern themselves with, in the medical industry, however, heavily restricted access to data like Private Health Information (PHI) is commonplace. 

This commitment to privacy, however, does sometimes hamper how quickly clinicians can access a patient’s medical information. If you’re injured while on holiday and need to go to a hospital, they won’t have immediate unrestricted access to your PHI; likewise, your GP back home won’t have full oversight of your overseas treatment. As you go between different specialists, clinics, DHBs or even countries, the staff you see in one location won’t be able to see information from another without specifically requesting it and some procedural delay. While this impediment is part of a necessary procedure to protect patient privacy, it does invariably create delays. The need for expedient patient information necessitates some doubling handling with patients often being asked the same battery of diagnostic questions with every consultation. This is a useful solution but may have some limitations of its own. 

What if you forget a piece of crucial information or accidentally provide incorrect or misleading information about your medical history and symptoms? What if a specific situation, like a mouth or brain injury, limits your ability to accurately provide crucial information to hospital staff?

In an ideal system, all your medical data could be stored within a single database. The benefits of a system like this would help in a multitude of ways which could address not only the limitations of data access for clinicians but also help with concerns about patient information relay. Leveraging the power of integration software, we can help clinicians to vastly improve a patient’s treatment and overall experience from triage to discharge. An integration engine designed to form a network between the numerous databases and programs that are already being used within care facilities can do exactly this; this can provide immeasurable benefit to clinicians and patients alike.

With security at the front of every decision, one key factor here is access. While it’s crucial for clinicians to have access to vital information at point-of-care, it’s important to ensure that same information is not made available publicly. The solution is having interfaces designed and customised for different user-types. By determining the interface that different parties use, you can control the possible mishandling of that sensitive data.

An optimal setup may look something like this:

A patient arrives and they, or their current caregiver, are directed toward a digital triage form where they can see a list of diagnostic questions. Upon submitting this information this is then forwarded to a triage nurse or clinic manager who can determine how urgently they need care and whether they should see a specific doctor or specialist. When this is submitted, it can be automatically forwarded to the clinician in question who, with the correct access limitations, can then pull up additional patient data from a previous visit or referral and determine what information is most pertinent to their patient before, during and after the consultation. If necessary, a patient can also provide enormously useful insights after being discharged by way of a medical monitoring device or even a phone app where they can passively or regularly submit feedback into a one-way patient update portal. In one consultation, there are four different interfaces with different layers of access:

  • The triage questionnaire, a one-way entry field with highly limited access for assisting in patient triage.
  • The clinic management software, with insight into questionnaire feedback as well as internal clinic management data like staff or room availability.
  • The clinician’s portal, with advanced access to current and historical patient data.
  • The patient reporting app, the same one-way submission-only access as before but specifically for monitoring and updating. 

Between all these systems is the integration engine through which the information is securely transmitted in real-time before, during, and after the point-of-care. The power of cloud-based technology means there is practically no limit to how much these healthcare ecosystems can be customised and enhanced, improving data access while maintaining patient privacy. As the technology further evolves and integrates with new databases and data input services, the next generation of apps and software extensions will be able to provide even greater benefits to providers, clinicians, and patients.