Sharing healthcare data | By Haya Fatima Sehgal


Sharing healthcare data

INFORMATION is power. I never quite realized the importance of those words until last year when the global pandemic ravaged the world. Although true in all things, it is especially now given our current circumstances.

Healthcare data, now considered the new wealth, is worth millions due to disruption caused by Covid-19.

The sharing and implementation of healthcare information have now become key to solving critical issues as well as saving humanity from any future catastrophes.

From disruption came a universal cause and a world working towards common goals of fighting the global pandemic.

The creation of a healthcare information ecosystem is what was much needed as medics and world leaders soon realized the impact of the virus.

Data analyzed from different geographical locations have led to creating methodologies in fighting this together.

Newly generated healthcare data can now be used to track the overtures of the virus and anything related to it in terms of technology advancement, systems and future investments.

Updated information has become the connectivity for nations grappling with colossal damage.

One example of relaying trustworthy sources of information was the WHO (World Health Organization).

Billions were dependent on updated information as it filtered through each day and changed within hours.
Recently the World Bank published The World Development Report 2021 which focuses on the theme of “Data for Better Lives”.

It speaks of the data revolution and asks two main questions: 1) How can data be used to improve our lives? and 2) What kind of governance is needed to generate and utilize this data? The report emphasizes that technological changes have helped in the improvement of data collection and details how the government, individuals and the private sector can harness this for development.

It suggests: 1) Forging Social Contracts 2) Increasing data use and reuse to realize greater value 3) Creating equitable access 4) Fostering trust through safeguards that protect people from the harm of data misuse and 5) Working towards an Integrated National System (INDS).

Linking all this to healthcare, one can consider a ‘social contract’ for the full use of medical information to be shared equitably while safeguarding the rights of all stakeholders. This would need to be “forged at both national and international levels”.

It is here that countries have also found that forging allies simultaneously through the global catastrophe would be beneficial in terms of sharing information.

The increase of ‘social contracts’ would also naturally lead to an increase in utilizing data to advance social and economic progress.

By furthering access to several users through open data systems and establishing standards across the board, such information could be employed for frameworks for better policymaking.

Keeping this in mind, feasible access to healthcare information must be granted to everybody.

The input of all nations will be key as well as transparency of purposes this is to be used for. Here, trust would be essential amongst nations and people.

Yet there remains resistance to sharing data. There have been concerns about the ramifications of the misuse of personal healthcare information as well as the upcoming vaccine passports.

All this comes with the added apprehensions on how secure the data would be against cyberattacks.

One thing remains true: information saves lives and we have realized that sharing critical healthcare data could work towards forming diplomacy channels and alliances.

Global Welfare will depend on governments open to sharing essential information, thus extending their soft power.

With countries vying to broaden their vaccine supply chains, sharing of such information will ultimately lead to increasing their circle of influence.

When one speaks of integrated systems, a unified system could be the answer the world is looking for.

And what better way than Healthcare data which will be the initiation of an information system shared through a portal of global unity and trust!

—The writer is known for her articles on Cultural Impact.

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