Health care providers have been somewhat under the gun when it comes to the integrity, security and privacy of patient data for more than a decade now, while breaches have increased in prevalence and damage. The onus has been decisively placed on individual medical firms to begin making more progressive changes to their IT security and general data management strategies, but the entirety of the sector is increasingly expected to invest more time and resources into these endeavors.

Unfortunately, this has been in no way, shape or form a simple matter, as the complexity of technology has only intensified in the past few years, with a proverbial universe of new tools entering into the average medical organization rapidly. From enterprise mobility and telemedicine to the Internet of Things and beyond, health care providers have had to face a steep learning curve when it comes to modern technologies, all the while obliging various regulatory compliance demands.

Perhaps the most important matter in this discussion is the analytics component of the equation, as medical firms are rapidly looking to deploy more robust big data strategies to make more of the information they generate, store and collect. When the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act was passed in 2009, officials did point to the potential analytics applications that would become more feasible with the widespread adoption of electronic health record systems.

Now, more health care entities are fearful that big data programs in their sector will eventually lead to issues with privacy given how much information is involved. Health care providers will need to ensure that they are leveraging the right solutions, such as secure cloud services, to capitalize on the opportunities involved in advanced analytics while avoiding falling victim to the countless inherent risks.

What's the problem?
CIO Magazine recently asserted that the data sources involved in health care analytics strategies might be the most worrisome aspect of all, as so many new pools of information have been created in a relatively short period of time. According to the news provider, Internet-connected devices that fall into the Internet of Things, social media websites, credit score banks and other sources are increasingly viewed as potential generators of useful information in analytics programs.

Because of the sheer novelty involved in pulling information from these resources, privacy advocates are concerned about how such strategies will end up impacting the average patient, or consumer for that matter. CIO Magazine explained that while medical organizations' use of more wide-reaching analytics strategies might be troublesome, the fears therein do not hold a candle to those focused on major corporations following suit.

At the very least, companies that generate medical data will need to implement more effective controls and standards to ensure that the information does not fall into the wrong hands. More importantly, though, health care firms that are embarking upon more advanced analytics programs will need to keep a keen eye on security, privacy and compliance every step of the way to avoid being the source of a major breach.

Is big data common?
To be clear, health care analytics programs are far from being a rarity in the medical sector today, and they are expected to spread significantly through the end of this decade with respect to adoption rates and investment volumes. Research and Markets recently reported that the health care analytics industry is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 26.5 percent between 2015 and 2020 globally.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the analysts argued that these gains will be the direct product of a wealth of major pressure points in the medical sector, including the need to use EHR systems meaningfully, lower the cost of care and improve quality all at once. These catalysts are expected to take the medical analytics market from a global size of $5.8 billion in annual revenues this year to $18.7 billion by 2020.

One can only hope that health care providers will lean more heavily upon reliable security service providers in this time frame, as a failure to do so could quickly land hospitals and others in hot water with regulators, patients and others.

Are preparations being made?
EHR systems represent an important step for the American health care sector, which had lagged in the adoption of digitized patient record systems up until the passage of the HITECH Act. However, these technologies heightened the need for more progressive security programs, especially as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act is still very much in action.

Medical firms should consider deploying proven security solutions to mitigate threats more proactively, including secure cloud, email encryption and data center services.