Reading Between the Lines: The Promise and Pitfalls of Leveraging Unstructured Data for Secondary Use

According to a recent Gartner report, 80% of medical record data will be unstructured within two years. This means vast quantities of personal health information residing in text, medical notes and XML files is and will be available for analyses.

Unstructured data opens the door to secondary use, offering critical insights, innovation and knowledge for research hospitals, insurers and medical claims processors, among others. But it also opens up a whole new world of HIPAA-related risks.

A whitepaper by Privacy Analytics takes a deep look at this emerging trend and offers helpful insight and key considerations for organizations planning to use unstructured data. On the plus side, anonymized unstructured data can provide a deep reservoir of data and insight that enables healthcare organizations to improve healthcare outcomes and identify critical cost savings.

But without taking proper precautions to establish standard protocols and a systematic approach to data management, organizations will place themselves – and the privacy of individuals – at great risk of disclosing personal information. Among the best practices for handling unstructured data are 1. Ensuring proper anonymization, and 2. Governing data use within rigorous compliance practices.

In short, if your organization plans to collect and leverage unstructured data, the threshold for protection must be extraordinarily high – well beyond accepted academic and industry practices. Read more by downloading the Privacy Analytics whitepaper.

Does your organization currently use unstructured data to generate new insights? If so, what steps have you taken to anonymize and govern its use?

Bob Chaput

CEO at Clearwater Compliance
Bob Chaput is widely recognized for his extensive and in-depth knowledge of healthcare compliance and cyber risk management, and is one of the industry’s leading authorities in healthcare information security today. As a leading authority safeguarding health data, Chaput has supported hundreds of hospitals and health systems to successfully manage healthcare’s evolving cybersecurity threats and ensure patient safety.