Non-profit organization CyArk has launched a very ambitious and essential project. The group aims to digitally preserve the world’s most spectacular historical sites. It will create 3D backups of historical sites in a project that aims to… eternity!
The AHIMA Convention & Exchibit is an annual conference about healthcare management. More than four thousand experts participated in the conference this year. In case you are interested in the field, you shouldn’t miss it next time.
Where I come from, and as I was growing up, I remember clearly that there was a dream that many parents shared: to see their children growing to become doctors. Of course, lawyers were equally popular among most parents’ dreams: which parent wouldn’t have dreamed to see his or her precious child graduating law school? Not many, I can assure you of that! Nevertheless, becoming a doctor was probably even more prestigious. Doctors were always seen (and I don’t think that this will ever dramatically change) as prominent members of the society. Unless robots take over one day in the very remote future, doctors will still be around, offering their services to their fellow citizens and whoever needs them.
Societies are not something fixed, though; as a matter of fact, they are constantly changing. Nowadays, with the emergence of information society, there is a profession that rapidly gained popularity. Healthcare Information Professionals (HIM) are altering the professional landscape of the world of medicine, responding to the present needs of developed societies.
The meteoric rise of the role of information management nowadays, paralleled by the sudden death of the era when professionals had to deal with paper records stored in desks and folders, have created the need for specialized professionals in data and records management in all professional fields. In hospitals, HIM professionals are becoming more and more necessary, as the way we understand medicine and the treatment of patients is also rapidly transforming.
Data management doesn’t concern only the specialized companies that are dealing with information management and storage. On the contrary, in every professional field the need for more efficient use of data is urgent. Today, the use of data in order to optimize healthcare for patients is as urgent as it has never been before. Therefore, the whole essence of what is the role of a HIM professional has totally changed.
Education is also affected by these developments. Universities that offer health information management degree programs are focusing more and more on data analysis and research, today more than ever before. Students receive training in computer software programs to analyze data. Generally speaking, it becomes more and more obvious that in our times any professional must have basic knowledge of computer programming and must acquire the necessary skills for a job office that is getting much more complicated than it used to be. If you ask the elder in the profession how it used to be decades ago, you will hear stories of a remote era. Along with the technological advancement even the job realities changed and we definitely have to keep up the pace, even enjoy the benefits of what it’s being offered in terms of improved services and efficiency.
A direct consequence of the increasing importance of information technology in the field of healthcare information management is the larger number of men to be hired in a previously female-dominated profession. What is more, and according to the experts in the field, what is becoming more evident as time passes is that all HIM professionals must be ready to adapt relatively fast to new challenges and that they must keep an open eye to the rapid and continuous changes in their professional field.
As for the future, AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) is already planning and trying to explore new possibilities. One idea is supposedly to try to organize the HIM profession in a large collaborative project, where professionals are working together in the way that NASA’s Mission Control Center operates. The leading figures in the field also agree that a higher level of education must be pursued by the HIM professionals, an education that must include information governance skills and knowledge as well.
Sure, the world is changing. Sometimes we feel glad about it, but occasionally we get stressed trying to keep up with the… changes! One thing is for certain, though: nowadays, education is a lifelong project and everyone must remember Solon, the wise ancient Greek, who once said… “as I grow older, I constantly learn more”… Maybe parents should learn that being a doctor is not the only prestigious profession in the field anymore and that being a healthcare information manager is just as demanding.
There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.
Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.
If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?
The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.
Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.
In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.
As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.
It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.
They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.
In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.
To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.
Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.
And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.
When I was young I used to collect all sorts of things: cd’s with my favorite music, magazine articles for things that interested me, coins, DVD’s, gadgets from my holiday’s destinations and even matchboxes for a short while. The reason is obvious: it was the simple desire to store and preserve everything that made me happy or brought to me good memories from the past. Well, it is a habit I kind of miss since I grew up a little bit. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction every time I felt like updating or even checking on one of my boyish collections. It was a true feeling of joy!
What does it mean to grow up? Well, it means that the necessities of life knock at your door at some time (along with the pleasures of the adult life that is). A necessity of adult life couldn’t be other than the need to gather and preserve data that concern your professional life. You might need to do it by yourself if you are an accountant that works from home. Or, you might need to do it for your company if you’re one of the lucky ones that has his own office downtown (in the times of high rates of unemployment around Europe, yes, this is what I call luck!).
How many times a company had to face devastating results in the light of a mismanagement of its data? I guess it must be many! Nowadays especially, the need of a company to store its data in an appropriate way it’s not only a necessity directed from the need to operate smoothly and efficiently but it is also a matter of stricter regulations and policies concerning data management and archive storage. E.U. recent regulations have generated heated discussions concerning the issue. Nevertheless, what matters in this case is not how things should have been but how one can adjust to new realities.
Iron Mountain provides excellent services for document storage. The company simply gathers the documents and stores them to their off-site storage facilities. Web services offered by the company provide an easy and quick access to your archive. What is more, you can label, search and of course request a retrieval of documents at any time. Iron Mountain has over 1.000 storage facilities around the world and has been operating on the field since 1951. Now, this is what I call a safe choice if you want to guarantee business continuity for your own company!
Apart from storing data and information though, there is also another necessity. It consists of the simple fact that some data, some information, needs to be destroyed. And this is another sensitive issue that has been thoroughly discussed by everyone concerned: individuals, companies, institutions and governmental agencies. It goes like this: some information is valuable (it could costs millions sometimes!) and some other is simply, from a point onward, confidential waste, meaning simply waste. And these are confidential waste that a company must get rid of.
In addition, by being waste it means that you need to make proper use of them! The world we live in faces a problem, we all know it: it is the single most crucial problem this planet faces and will need to face in the future and it’s the ecological one. I will put it bluntly: if we want to imagine that sometime from now in the future normal life will still go on than we really need to start protecting the environment. In other words, your confidential waste must become recycling material and obviously this is a job that needs to be handled professionally.
Many companies choose to outsource the job of destroying their data in order to keep up with data destruction requirements and ecological concerns. Usually, they are provided with locked consoles which are emptied on a regular basis by the external company’s stuff. The waste will be 100% recycled. In addition, a small company that wishes to avoid signing a contract, it can request on-demand shredding services by another company. That means that they can use their services whenever is needed as a small company probably doesn’t need to deal with huge amount of information and confidential waste that is.
This whole issue is all about responsibility and transparency in case you didn’t get it. I only hope that most companies will comply with all of the the rules and regulations…
We live in the era of high speed, also applied to the exchange and management of information. Our era has its own language, its own jargon, if you’d like. For instance, we abbreviate a lot, expressing our logic focused on saving time and energy and on enhancing speed and efficiency. If I were to ask someone born in a different era than ours what IM stands for, for instance, what would that person reply? That it stands for ‘I am’? Maybe. That it stands for ‘important message’? That could also be an available option. But someone – anyone – living in the here and now might actually give the correct answer applied for the nowadays context, that correct answer that solves today’s puzzle: namely, that IM definitely stands for ‘information management’.
What is information management? Well, grosso modo, information management deals with compiling information received from one or various sources and redistributing it efficiently to audiences. What seems to be a rather simple procedure at the first sight actually acquires many more facets when considering the implications. Information management implies the organization, categorization, coordination, control, structuring and planning of information and the material it stands for, not to mention the processing, evaluation and rendering of accurate reports on what is actually going on during the process. Without all these, corporate functioning would not be possible today, as the whole tertiary system today depends on nothing else than information and the efficient management of it – this is what it is made of!
Information management has its own history, connected closely with the post-industrial society, the end of an era set on production and the beginning of the corporate era, set on service providers which base their activity on the exchange of information. In the 1970s it’s when the ‘nowadays’ were officially on; in other words, when the corporate era was officially on. It is when the working class heroes and small town boys became history and the corporate men in suits took over, from their glass and steel offices well-set in the global city, in the skyscrapers that reach towards the sky and endlessly, stubbornly try to defy it, never giving up. But back then it was only the beginning – and the beginning of information management as well. Back in those days, information management was in its germ phase, still bearing the meaning of file management. The 1970s were not digitalized; the world was still lying on paper – but not for long! Gradually, the miracle happened and the offices got stuffed not with writing machines, but with computers!
Switching to computers as the main working tool meant also a great change in what was called information management. Information was contained in a box, managed from a box, sent to another box and companies started to need more and more qualified employees to manage to play with this new ‘toys’ that seemed capable of doing anything at a press of a button in high speed as well. If in the 1970s anyone could have done information management – which actually translated back then as ‘file management’ -, in the 1990s things were already getting more complicated.
If in the 1990s information management could have still be dealt with by highly qualified employees of some companies, nowadays, in the 2000s and on, information management is already a service by itself provided by specialized in data protection companies to fellow companies in the purpose of increasing efficiency and guaranteeing the high quality of the services provided, the security of the procedures and, of course, the high speed of the process as well.
Also, information itself changed in its nature and became what we know as data. Data in the computer is turning the information in mechanically, objectively, without the sprinkle of feeling and subjectivity that basically stand for the human error. Since the information once dealt with by humans, with their incumbent or recurrent uncertainties and insecurities that could have left way for mistakes, has been gradually turned into data through the intensive use of computers, nowadays information management also changed its course and stands for an activity on its own, also knows by some already as data management.
Information management (or data management) so much grew in importance that it is a field of expertise that stands on its own already. In case you care about the well-being on your company, you already know that you will need to contract the services of a specialized company in data management services, as data is the air that companies breathe today, just as information is what we feed ourselves on today as well.
I can only wish the reader to enjoy the present and embrace the future, while taking care of their data first!
…and Possible Solutions
What is waste nowadays? Well, waste is not simply rubbish, that’s for sure. Waste is one of the hot issues of the day, whether we are talking about household waste and the recycling of it, whether we talk about nuclear waste and the risky consequences of not being handled with very special care, or whether we are dealing with economic waste and the reduction of it, especially in the context of current economic crisis.
Recycling seems to be top of the list when it comes to priorities and possible solutions that could impose themselves over waste. Recycling involves the transformation and reuse of already used material – be it raw material or not. But what if recycling would be applied in the reuse of already used information? What if some – by thinking recycling-wise – would try to build their kingdom on already thrown away data?
If so, this is when the term of confidential waste comes into the discussion. Handling with care confidential waste can become a priority for many businesses, if the philosophy of recycling gets too much rooted in the minds and intentions of competitors. It would mean that the confidential waste produced by your own company would become the fertile ground of competitors, who would even use whatever might be strictly confidential for you in their own advantage, for increasing their own profits and benefits. And this is how the philosophy of recycling could lose its ethical ground and become its opposite. Also, by comparison, your own confidential waste not handled with care can become as dangerous to your business’s well being as nuclear waste can be to the planet, despite nuclear power having been so useful.
But is there any solution to avoid or diminish at maximum any risk for a disaster? Well, there might be. Just as handling with care and attention the nuclear waste so that it not to produce a disaster to the whole humanity, handling with care and maximum of attention the confidential waste produced by your company could also impose itself as the most proper of even only existing solution at the moment. Also, as there are specialized organisms handling very dangerous waste, there are also specialists in handling whatever is to be considered confidential waste, so that it won’t turn against the well being of the organism or enterprise that produced it in the first place.
Back in the old days, when businesses still existed and confidentiality was an issue as well, papers and documents containing information that could have been harmful for one party or another used to be thorn apart before being thrown away. Based on that example, shredding services have been invented to insure the proper handling of that data that should and must disappear.
It is absolutely necessary to make use of such shredding services for the sake of the health of the business you might be running. The bad news today is that the software to manage to put back thorn apart documents has already been invented. Therefore, information that you might consider destroyed and long gone already might be recreated by use of specialized software. Therefore, there is the urgent need to rely upon some experts that could do the job properly.
Moreover, in case you do care not only for the well being of your own business, but also for the well being of the environment, you should then also think about some specialized companies that can handle the informational waste with care, but also the physical waste with proper consideration. This involved to contract the services of those companies who could actually guarantee, on the one hand, the fact that the confidential data would not be ‘recycled’, but, on the other hand, the fact that the physical support upon which this data had been inscribed – be it paper of plastic – could be recycled, for the benefit of the whole planet and the protection of the natural environment.
Given the complex relationship between waste and recycling – be it confidential or not, be it well-intended or not – we then need to conclude that proper care and attention will always be the best guards to prevent a possible disaster. Take care!