Don’t Take Risks with Your Practice’s Data: Keep it Local
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Don’t Take Risks with Your Practice’s Data: Keep it Local

In an era where data breaches from attacks in Australia and overseas are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, ensuring the safety of your medical practice’s data has never been more crucial.   

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Notifiable data breaches report, the health sector is the most impacted sector when it comes to data breaches, accounting for the highest number of breaches compared to all other sectors. In fact, 14 per cent (71) of all breaches in Australia between July and December 2022 occurred in the health sector, and malicious or criminal attack was the top reason for data breaches (52%).  

Data breaches can create financial, reputational and operational challenges for organisations. For a patient, a data breach could lead to physical, psychological, emotional, financial and reputational harm. The negative individual and organisation-level consequences resulting from a data breach are just some of the reasons why it’s so important to protect the data in your medical practice.    

When we look at where to store your practice data, some organisations consider storing this overseas, however this can create legal and regulatory issues, security risks, slower access to data, and language and cultural barriers – to name a few.  

Storing your practice’s data in the same country where you deliver care can provide you with more control and visibility over how data is stored, accessed, and protected. You wouldn’t want your life savings or valuables to be stored overseas, so why do the same with your medical practice’s data?  

Improved protection

Keeping a medical practice’s data within Australian borders requires compliance with local data protection and privacy regulations. This can help to avoid legal and regulatory issues that may arise from storing data overseas. 

In Australia, there are various laws and regulations which govern the handling and storage of personal health information. Data stored domestically is subject to the protections afforded by the Privacy Act and the Australian Privacy Principles (or APPs), which are the cornerstone of the privacy protection framework in the Privacy Act 1988. These apply to any organisation or agency which the Privacy Act covers. 

Other laws that govern the handling and storage of healthcare data in Australia, include: 

  • The My Health Records Act 2012: This Act sets out the rules for the collection, storage, and use of health information in the national electronic health record system. 

If you choose to store your data offshore, you must include this information in your privacy policy and ensure you are meeting all relevant obligations under Australian law. You are also legally obliged to inform your patients their data is stored overseas.  

Finally, storing data overseas means you must obey the local laws and regulations with regards to data protection and privacy in the respective country. Such laws and regulations may not be as robust as Australia’s laws and regulations, so if this is an option you are considering, ensure you perform your due diligence and balance the risks involved.  


More secure storage

Local data storage provides greater certainty and control over how your practice data is managed, empowering practices with more and closer control over access to stored data.  

Storing data overseas, however, could expose practices to different security risks as the providers are not subject to the same legal and regulatory frameworks that protect data locally in Australia. This could even increase the risk of data breaches, unauthorised access, and other security incidents. 

Safer and simpler accessibility 

Time is crucial in healthcare. Having the ability to access patient or practice information immediately can be critical for a patient’s health and your organisation as a whole. Distance, time zone differences, and internet connectivity issues are just some of the barriers that could present when keeping data overseas.  

Storing data locally means faster access to patient and practice data, enabling GPs and healthcare professionals to make quicker, more informed decisions for providing timely, high-quality care to patients.

Language barriers 

Offshore data storage can create language and cultural barriers that could make it challenging to manage and access the data, as well as support services maintaining the physical storage space and your virtual storage. Such barriers could lead to miscommunications, misunderstandings, and other issues that could impact the quality of care provided to patients or lack of security around patient and financial information. 


Creating a safe local home for your practice’s data  

While offshore data storage invites a plethora of complexities and potential risks, storing data locally does not come without risks of data breaches. With the aim of mitigating cyber security attacks and providing peace of mind that your practice’s data is secure, digital technology solutions can provide a safe and reliable environment for your data. 

One such example is MedicalDirector’s Helix which is supported by secure, billion-dollar infrastructure. Helix sits on the industry-leading Microsoft Azure platform, a reliable platform with data backed-up across two Australian data centres which are bound by stringent Australian privacy and data security standards. This ensures your data is handled and stored appropriately and according to Australian law. 

Safeguard your practice’s data by keeping it close to home. It makes sense to you and your patients.

For further information or to speak to one of the team, simply visit: 

Clinical Practice Security Summit 2020