Healthcare providers obviously understand the importance of physical hygiene, but how do organisations regard data hygiene and its importance to their operations?

In an age where healthcare customers demand the most personalised experiences possible, the importance of data in making that happen cannot be underestimated, and this means good data hygiene across your entire IT ecosystem is more vital than ever.

Technologies such as big data, analytics and the cloud are responsible for the creation and storage of unprecedented amounts of data, a phenomenon which will continue to grow as augmented and virtual reality and the Internet of Things come to the fore over the next decade.

Keeping those data stores clean is vital if you’re going to protect your organisation against data loss, errors, duplication or corruption, whether unintentional or from external criminal attacks.

Threats to digital hygiene can come from a number of sources, not just system or network security incursions. When data is stored across sites in multiple and often disparate systems, the process of standardisation can be problematic, especially if there are formatting and/or consistency issues.

Get a digital hygiene action plan and put it into effect

For data to be used effectively, it needs to be consistently reliable and error free. Bad data that is either outdated or just plain wrong can undermine every level of your organisation, especially in the healthcare sector, where accuracy of information is essential.

Mitigating and preventing data issues from arising at the outset is the most effective way of ensuring a high level of data hygiene. A good data quality program should be able to effectively monitor how your data is collected, disseminated and incorporated into existing systems. Locating the source of unclean data will help to isolate it from the rest of your IT infrastructure.

This may initially involve cleaning your existing data, for which there are a number of applications available. The next step is to put systems in place that limit the amount of bad data currently being collected and should also involve standardising data entry points and dissemination across your organisation.

Email is also an important starting point because much of your new data enters your IT ecosystem this way. Installing robust anti-virus applications is vital, as are the establishment of stringent verification, domain and mailbox checks. This will allow your IT people to trap spam email quickly and remove bounced emails and other suspicious content.

Don’t forget the human factors

Human error is still a major cause, if not the major cause, of poor-quality data, so training staff in uploading data correctly onto intranets and external networks and fully understanding verification processes has never been more essential.

Standardising data entry will go a long way towards minimising duplication, while the relentless march of big data and analytics technologies will mean staff have to spend less time manually entering data into the system.

Above all, adopting a proactive approach which isolates weaknesses in the data chain quickly before they can spread will go a long way to effectively improving your organisation’s data hygiene.

For more information on how Brother can help visit our corporate solutions website