Two doctors looking at patient files on a computer.

Doctors take several precautionary measures to simultaneously protect patient files and use them for future diagnosis.

When it comes to treatment of disease, early detection is vital. However, this is a catch-22 when related to patient files because of privacy issues. You want to be able to look at the data and know which screenings are the most appropriate, but you legally can’t disclose much of the relevant data to a team of statisticians. Mathematicians are trying to give you a way around this.

Keeping Patient Files Anonymous

The first step in maintaining privacy is altering patient data so that the patient is anonymous. This may sound like it defeats the purpose, but there are computer programs that can use the changed data just as effectively as the real data. While the data is no longer attached to an individual in any significant way, it is still relevant for the sake of observing trends and looking at summaries of statistics.

Researchers are working hard to ensure that the changed data does not result in statistics that have been altered. The computer system looks at the answers to yes and no questions like:

  • Is the patient overweight?
  • Does the patient smoke?
  • Is there a family history of illness?

Then it turns this data into geometric patterns. Now, while disguised as shapes, the data is still there for the computer to see, while the patients remain anonymous. How does this help a practice to treat patients?

The data can be collated, and statistics can be determined. At the same time, no one ever sees the name of a particular patient while doing data entry or figuring up the statistics. In this way, patients are protected, but health care providers still get much-needed data to determine the importance of various types of screening and other preventative measures.

Computers and the Health Care Industry

Patient privacy is a vital aspect of the health care industry despite the fact that we live in a digital age of information sharing. You need an agency to help you navigate the line between storing data and protecting data. After all, you want to be able to provide patients with the best possible care while submitting to the law.