Your guide to medical data encryption and transfer for secured digital storage
- Data security is essential in the healthcare industry for protecting confidential patient information, including images, in compliance with HIPAA regulations
- Multisite medical data sharing is critical in modern clinical practice and medical research
- Data sharing and storage must preserve individual patient privacy
- Medical imaging technology produces large and complex data files that must be stored securely while remaining accessible for transfer
The use of information technology (IT) permeates modern medicine. Starting with the introduction of hospital information systems (HIS) around 1970, digital imaging modalities such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) became popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), and softcopy reading in the 1980s and 1990s added to the medical data that needed to be stored and encrypted.
Medical data encryption enables electronic data exchange and the sharing of patient clinical data and documentation. Patient medical data can be shared within a health system or transferred to authorized health systems regardless of location.
The widespread integration of IT and the Internet in the medical profession creates significant challenges around data and cybersecurity. This guide describes why medical data encryption must be secured from creation, during transfer, and while in storage. And how medical software must provide evolving encryption strategies to ensure patient data remains secure.
The critical nature of medical data security
The healthcare industry struggles with persistent security attacks because of the value of health data. Health data is monetizable by cybercriminals using the dark web. For example, stolen records are allegedly worth up to 20 times more than credit card numbers. Why the persistent attacks? The health industry’s estimated worth is $3 trillion, with each medical record worth upwards of $1000.00 each.
It’s been relatively easy to steal Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Personal Health Information (PHI) to commit fraud. Between data breaches at storage points, the interception of messaging between API endpoints, and stealing hardware such as laptops and mobile devices, securing your data at all access points is essential.
Ransomware has become a major issue within the health industry. Reportedly, 15% of all global ransomware incidences occurred in the health industry. What makes the healthcare industry a target is the value of the data and the complexity of the system. Healthcare facilities contain numerous groups with proprietary systems and separate security protocols. Integrating large, complex systems and performing data migrations is a daunting task in an already over-stressed occupational workplace.
When do you implement new security protocols? Which ones do you use and how do you keep them up to date without constantly interfering with the healthcare provider’s workflow and processes?
For system security effectiveness, security protocols must be integrated into the healthcare providers existing workflow. Simple, straightforward security procedures are essential for success. Enter data encryption for handling all phases of medical record creation, transfer, and storage.
Data encryption technology
Following established industry standards is an important aspect of meeting medical data security needs. The DICOM standards organization provides specifications for encrypting medical data transfer, storage, and exchange.
DICOM objects contain images and demographic or medical patient information, or PII and PHI. PII and PHI must be secured and remain confidential. The DICOM standards facilitate encryption of all DICOM objects regardless of the software systems. Essentially, the DICOM standards organization provides detailed information on how to encrypt data during DICOM object transfer, use, receipt, and storage.
What is encryption? Encryption secures health data in transit, use, and storage. The advantage of using encryption is not seeing it. Encryption of data occurs in the background, so it doesn’t interfere with the healthcare provider’s workflow. You’re not adding another action onto the provider, but rather implementing it behind the scenes. The use of encryption methods secures data from creation, during use, when it’s transferred or exchanged to another system, and when it’s stored regardless of the database location.
Encryption protocols include implementing the following:
- Audit trail logging, which keeps a permanent record of the data’s use, modification, and transmission regardless of the number of transactions. The audit log provides tracking of the medical record.
- Protection of mobile devices used for receiving notifications, files, or accessing the system, including EHR/EMR software, lab results, and other patient data. Mobile devices include phones, tablets, laptops, and portable medical devices.
Evolving security technology – finding a medical data security partner
Keeping up with the latest security vulnerabilities and threats to the healthcare industry remains an ongoing, critical task. As each new security system gains an advantage, there are already cybercriminals working on a way to get by it. Security software must be constantly updated with the latest, future-focused protections and protocols.
Encryption of medical data during transfer, use, and storage requires constant diligence to keep the technology updated and medical data secured. Data security is critical in the healthcare industry not only for business success but compliance with HIPAA regulations. Modern healthcare systems are increasingly integrated and share patient data. Data security must be retained during each use, when the data is transferred, and in each database.
Data breaches are a serious business threat due to both the impact of fines, and regulatory sanctions. Additionally, patient trust is lost when data is mishandled. Medical imaging data creates massive amounts of complex files that must be securely stored, transferred, and downloaded for use.
Keeping all patient data connected and accessible requires a software technology partner up to the challenge. DICOM DIRECTOR’S STORE XR supports any size healthcare system with secured digital storage. Using STORE XR allows each connected medical practice to access, use, and save secured images to storage. Accessing secured files is customizable for each practice, so you get the data in the form needed.
STORE XR provides secure cloud-based PACS storage that:
- Allows access to images wherever there’s an internet connection
- Is secure and easy to use
- Is scalable for personal to enterprise-level data archiving
No more trying to match data files to the patient or finding the images aren’t connected to the correct patient. Medical providers such as Radiologists, Pathologists, Clinicians, and Veterinarians can easily upload, download, and store digital images without interruptions to their regular patient workflow process. Learn more about STORE XR and other integrated DICOM DIRECTOR products in the Learning Center. Find the secured tools your healthcare system needs and try them out with a free trial.