Woman and Daughter with Doctor, faces de-identified

Why is Data Privacy in Healthcare So Important?

Modern healthcare stands on the twin pillars of trust and information. When patients feel like they can trust their doctor and the healthcare system in general, they are more likely to experience positive health outcomes, likely because they may be more apt to seek medical care when necessary and provide information critical to a proper diagnosis.

Unfortunately, trust isn’t always easy to come by. Even when a patient doesn’t have a serious condition, they don’t usually want their private medical information to be made public; especially as there are stigmas attached to certain diseases and medical conditions. 

In addition to the practical and ethical reasons for maintaining healthcare data privacy, there are also regulatory considerations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a set of regulations designed to protect patient privacy in the United States. There are a number of laws in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere that similarly protect patient data.


Responsibility to Prevent Data Breaches 

Healthcare organizations must take strong yet reasonable measures to protect against data breaches and ensure the privacy of healthcare data. If they do not, they risk financial and criminal consequences. 

The Department of Health and Human Services defines a data breach as the illegal use or disclosure of private health information that poses a risk to the “financial, reputational or other type of harm.” Data breaches appear to be more prevalent than ever, and according to an international study published in 2020, hacking and IT incidents were found to be the most common types of attack that have led to data breaches.

While the people who have had their information released are the most obvious victims of a data breach, organizations also have to deal with damage to their image, reputation and brand.

Data breaches are typically described as being internal or external. Caused with the assistance of someone inside the target organization, internal breaches are the result of access abuse, inauthentic access, irresponsible disposal of sensitive data, theft or unintentional sharing to an unauthorized party. External breaches mostly involve hacking incidents, such as phishing scams, malware attacks, spyware, ransomware attacks and fraud.

It is troubling to observe that, the healthcare industry is the most common victim of data breaches. The international study from 2020 found more than 3,900 confirmed data breaches in the healthcare sector from 2005 to 2019, with more than 43 percent of all healthcare data being compromised over that time period. From 2015 to 2019 alone, hacking was responsible for exposing at least 92 percent of patient health records. The study team also said email and network servers were the primary targets for data breach efforts.

Underlining the importance of data privacy in healthcare, the researchers also concluded that data breaches involving healthcare data were far more costly than the average data breach.  


Maintaining the Privacy of Healthcare Data in Collaborations

While protecting healthcare patient data privacy should be of the utmost importance, there is an opportunity cost that comes with keeping healthcare data locked away. For example, healthcare organizations that can collaborate to extract insights from their datasets may be able to — by the sheet numbers of their combined datasets — glean helpful information about which medical treatments for the same conditions yield the best results. 

Yet, collaborating to extract such information from their data while ensuring that personally identifiable information remains protected has traditionally been a challenge. The question of why data privacy in healthcare is so important may seem like a simple one. But attached to this question is also the question of why staying on top of the latest methods of safeguarding data is so important to the advancement of data-driven innovations in healthcare. After all, not all solutions to healthcare data privacy issues are created equal, particularly when it comes to data-driven collaboration between different institutions. For organizations that truly care about doing their best to ensure data privacy in the healthcare industry, the big question has to also be about the how.


TripleBlind: Protecting Data While Unlocking its Value

TripleBlind offers the most complete and scalable solution for privacy-enhancing computation. Its solution is superior to existing methods of privacy-preserving technologies like those mentioned above. At the same time, the TripleBlind solution, which is delivered via a simple API, is built on well-understood principles such as federated learning and multi-party compute, to radically improve the practical use of other privacy-preserving technologies. 

TripleBlind’s software-only solution solves for a broad range of use cases, with our primary focus on healthcare. In fact, The Mayo Clinic is among the company’s investors. TripleBlind offers healthcare organizations true scalability and faster processing, with support for all data and algorithm types. And one-way encryption means that the risk of user-error leading to data breaches is mitigated.

We support all cloud platforms and unlock the intellectual property value of data, while maintaining healthcare data privacy and security. Contact us today to schedule a demo of our technology.