Many industries have always depended on data gathering in order to do business. Marketing and retail, for example, use surveys and questionnaires to establish public perception of a product or brand. The information gathered then informs how a new cereal is being received or how to direct the next promotional campaign.
Data gathering has ramped up across other sectors, too. Healthcare, for example, has seen a shift towards taking information from patients in a bid to improve services. The NHS, famed for its traditions, is now using data to decide on how to approach medical care and research treatment methods.
With so much data being made accessible to healthcare providers, then, how does this look for mental health services?
Data usage within mental health services
For those working in the mental health field, data is gathered for several reasons. First, it’s used to establish the prevalence of certain mental health conditions. It’s also used to measure outcomes and look for opportunities to improve services. Additionally, it’s used to gauge areas that require funding and plan NHS mental health services in the coming years.
The data is obtained through techniques such as focus groups, patient interviews and patient observation.
The risks associated with data usage
Like any form of data gathering, there are security and privacy concerns that come with collecting information about people. While GDPR regulations apply, there is still the risk that information could fall into the wrong hands. For example, computer systems could be hacked, or information intercepted.
The main concern here is that a person’s medical history could be used against them. There’s the issue of the loss of privacy, potential damage to a person’s reputation and risk of discrimination if details about their mental wellbeing are revealed.
The importance of data protection
Fears about revealing too much about one’s mental health can seem counterproductive. In order to provide a full service for a client, therapists and other mental professionals must build a trusting relationship with those in their care. However, concerns about the risks that come with opening up and giving these professionals personal data are understandable.
Therefore, investing in protective measures is essential. Mental health professionals must take steps to protect the privacy of people who are putting their trust in them.
Some ways to protect this data include the introduction of cybersecurity. Threat monitoring and protective firewalls can go a long way towards reducing data breaches. However, those using mental health services are aware that breaches can still happen.
Given the growing importance of data protection, cover for breaches is an increasingly common feature of insurance for therapists, which aims to reduce the impact should data fall into the wrong hands. Cyber insurance for therapists is something that mental health professionals may wish to consider if they are cautious about data gathering.
While data gathering is rapidly becoming a key part of offering and improving mental health services, protecting that data is vital.