From the Viewsroom

Plug the digital pitfalls

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on October 07, 2021

Hybrid formats of storing data are needed, especially in healthcare

After the six-hour global outage of WhatsApp, a seasoned doctor commented, their surgical unit communication had “collapsed”. A CT scan of a seriously ill patient could not be sent and they barely salvaged the situation. A sinister reminder, if one was needed, that relying entirely on digital systems in critical areas like healthcare could have life-threatening consequences. And for that reason, the Centre’s move on the digital health ID needs to have precaution built into it on multiple fronts, including threats from unintended or wilful acts that result in collapse of the system.

Going digital is convenient, for sure. No carrying around or record-keeping of multiple files and x-rays. It’s all stored under a single ID, digitally. However, what happens if a patient is at the hospital, and there’s a massive power outage and no access to the data? More worryingly, who holds the data and how porous are these holders of this vital information? From banks to governments to corporates to healthcare systems across the world, none has been spared by hackers. And global security specialists repeatedly warn of the next terror threat being orchestrated online.

While unethical hacking is a crime, there are the legitimate alliances that data-holding companies formalise with each other, leaving consumers in the dark. So without anyone batting an eyelid, a company that gleans health-data from smart accessories they sell people, sow plans for a launch of insurance products. It’s rampant. Another institution that holds consumers’ banking credit-score, signed-up to share details with a telephone company.

The digital genie is out of the bottle. But authorities need to ensure that digital systems are safe, transparent and, in this case, focussed on delivering healthcare. Government data too, for instance, need to be accessible online. Healthcare systems need hybrid formats that do not collapse following a digital breach. And the initiative needs to be inclusive of the elderly, disabled and economically vulnerable, who may be ill-at-ease on this information superhighway.

Published on October 06, 2021

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