This article was contributed by Eisele Candace who is working as a writer for Yalantis.
The rapid expansion of the use of advanced internet communications and artificial intelligence presents the medical community with a dilemma. It’s the desire of medical professionals to take full advantage of what the new technologies offer to improve medical care. But there’s the obligation to keep sensitive medical information private.
If the latest technology were only available to trusted institutions and individuals, healthcare data protection would be relatively simple. However, those with bad intentions are also equipping themselves with advanced tools. This puts the medical community in a digital arms race to stay one step ahead of opposing threats.
Importance of Protecting Medical Data
Patience have the right to expect their healthcare providers to keep their personal information under lock and key. The confidentiality agreement between patient and doctor is one of the most respected bonds of trust in western society.
The breaking of the bond could put patients at risk. For example, the criminal alteration of records could result in injury or death to a patient who receives the wrong diagnosis or treatment as a result of the breach.
Your reputation is also in danger. If patients have a choice of medical facilities, it’s likely they will choose the one with the superior track record of patient data security.
State and federal authorities have established regulatory practices to help safeguard medical data. Remaining at all times in full compliance of those requirements such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, is a major necessity for protecting data.
Challenges Securing Sensitive Medical Information
Effective healthcare has always relied on having access to as much data as possible. Likewise, today’s artificial intelligence revolution runs on data.
AI systems need to process massive amounts of data to perform correctly. That requires healthcare workers to find ways to feed AI systems with their required medical data without compromising data privacy.
Hiding Certain Data Points
One way to protect patient information is to shield their names and other identifying data on electronic files. Typically, an AI system learns from data such as blood pressure readings, age, height, weight, exercise routine, and so forth.
The system doesn’t need a name, house address, birthdate or other personal information. So use software that makes files anonymous. If the wrong people view the files they won’t be able to link medical data to a specific patient.
Meanwhile, you can still benefit from the AI system’s ability to help you analyze or diagnose more accurately.
Restricting Data Access
Healthcare leaders must build formidable systems to stop unauthorized entry to their computer systems. There must be detection software in place to report suspicious activity that may indicate an attempt to gain illegal entry.
Behavioral analytical software programs can help determine if the actions of someone on the network fit the profile of a threat. For example, it could decipher whether such behavior as a user logging in from an unexpected device constitutes a potential danger.
Testing Your Security
The only way to insure that your protection protocol is accurate is to test it regularly. There should be routine audits in place to make sure the system and its users comply with both industry and company standards.
You want to be aggressive. Actively look for holes in your security system. It’s better that you find them before the bad guys do.
It’s also necessary to verify that the users who are gaining authorized access to data are who they claim to be. Simple multi-factor authentication at the point of log-in goes a long way to protecting your data.
Controlling Employee Access
But you should guard data even from trusted staff members. You can do this by limiting the access each person has to your dataset. Users should only be able to read information that is directly relevant to their present duties.
Monitor access control closely. Often when people move down in authority or transfer to another department, they retain their previous access permissions.
This should never happen. Any change in duties, should trigger an immediate adjustment to data access.
Encryption is standard procedure for most sensitive data these days, including medical information. If properly encrypted, intercepted or stolen data is useless.
The key is to ensure that at no point is the data unencrypted. Two places were data may be vulnerable is in transit from one device to another or from one institute to another and in storage.
Make sure that incoming data from other doctors and hospitals is properly encrypted. Then, if the data is going to be stored on your servers, have encryption protocols in place. Finally, encrypt any information you transmit inside or outside your facility.
Advanced Software Solutions for Medical Data Security
The need to protect patient data is especially challenging when you also need specialized software to facilitate everyday tasks. You want to make sure the company creating your healthcare security software is diligent about complying with laws and industry guidelines.
Your computer network is likely to continue to grow so you want software that’s expandable and can accommodate the increasing complexity of the network’s demands. During each stage of testing, implementation, and growth, the software should undergo rigorous testing to meet your security standards.
Security-minded software development for healthcare will incorporate permission levels and require more than one means of user authentication. The software program should also allow you to keep records of each users’ access on your network.
Another option you should assist upon having is an automatic logout option for added safety.
The Ongoing Need for Robust Medical Data Protection
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as reported in the HIPAA Journal, an average of 57 known medical data breaches occurred monthly from mid-2022 to mid-2023. One of the incidents involved illegal access to 11,270,000 records at HCA Healthcare of Nashville.
During one 12-month period, intruders breached nearly 83 million records.
Protecting Your Future
The ongoing risk of a data breach will continue to be a daily reality for all medical facilities. But there are practical ways to mitigate the risk to data security in healthcare.
Choose software tailor-made for your needs, containing all the relevant tools necessary to keep your records safe. And make sure it’s scalable, so it grows as your organization grows. The investment you make in healthcare data security solutions protects not only your patients’ records but also your institution’s reputation.
About the author
Eisele Candace has 7 years of experience as a freelance technical writer working with Yalantis.