Fifth of healthcare organisations have no system to ensure vital data readable in future

Nearly a fifth of organisations in the healthcare sector don’t have a system in place to ensure vital data can still be read in years to come, a survey by information management experts has revealed.

As technology advances at an ever-faster rate the prospect of previously popular formats becoming obsolete is growing all the time.

In the commercial world, documents produced in Word Perfect or Lotus 123, movie clips and photographs stored in the .MOV format and information stored on floppy disks are all in real danger of becoming unreadable in the very near future.

Now a survey commissioned by Crown Records Management and undertaken by Censuswide has unveiled the real size of the problem in the health sector.

The survey showed that:

  • 18% do not have a system in place to preserve electronic information stored for longer than five years.
  • Only 20% regularly review formats on which data is held.
  • Just 36% regularly upgrade servers.
  • Only 25% outsource record archiving to a long-term digital preservation expert (the lowest across all sectors).
  • But a massive 98% believe it is important to keep records readable for up to 10 years.

Dominic Johnstone, Head of Information Management Services, at Crown Records Management, believes there is work to be done in the industry to avoid problems in future.

He said: “These results provide a real insight into what is a compelling topic – particularly in the healthcare sector where patient data is so important to everyone.

“Long term digital preservation hasn’t made big headlines so far but many companies may be in for a shock because the reality is that any information which is 10 years old or more is seriously at risk.

“The speed at which software and hardware evolves is forcing old formats to quickly become obsolete and there is no guarantee they will be readable in future.

“It’s amazing to see that almost a fifth in healthcare don’t even have a system in place to preserve data for the future and don’t review the format on which it is held. It’s not good news for the future.”

Johnstone is aware that many businesses simply store their information in the cloud in the belief it is safe; but they frequently don’t consider how, or if, it will be read in 10 or 20 years’ time.

He said: “It’s not surprising that cloud storage is so popular, it’s a relatively cheap and safe way to store information. But if the attached systems are not upgraded regularly – which doesn’t appear to be the case in the healthcare sector – and there is no lifecycle management in place there really is no guarantee all that information can be accessed and read when you really need it.”

The Crown Records Management/Censuswide Survey polled 408 IT decision makers in companies of 100-1,000 employees in February 2017.

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