Data Security

How Secure Data Sharing Improves Healthcare

Written by: Purandar Das 5 min read

No industry is more data-driven than Healthcare. Without the right information, doctors can’t properly diagnose a patient. Data is crucial for clinical trials, assessing the long-term results of any treatment or pharmaceutical. It’s not a stretch to say that the data is the foundation of all work in the Healthcare industry. Data drives not only preventative research, product development, medical device production but also how patients are treated, prescribed therapies, as well as preventative and wellness recommendations. This private data is heavily regulated, with severe penalties for disclosures. In 2018, Anthem Health paid one of the most significant direct HIPAA fines of $16 million and over $48 million in penalties.

With fines like this on the line, Pharma and Healthcare organizations may err on the side of caution when protecting data. But according to Frost Sullivan, companies that collaborate are 30% more innovative and 36% more productive.

How can Healthcare organizations secure sensitive data while still reaping the benefits of collaboration and innovation?

 

Cybersecurity Overreaction  

As most data collected and utilized by Healthcare companies is highly regulated, the logical assumption by many is to lock it down tight. They make accessing data so difficult that it is challenging to work with it. Requesting access takes jumping through numerous hoops and approvals before it is granted, even when needed. When this happens, productivity and innovation grind to a halt.

Data Protection That Isn’t 

Data encryption at rest appears to be a perfect fit for a Healthcare organization. Data encryption protects the confidentiality of the data and limits those without the key from decrypting it and reading it. The challenge with data encryption is that the data must be decrypted to be useful. The moment that the data becomes decrypted, there is potential for it to be accessed by someone who shouldn’t.

The other challenge with traditional data encryption solutions is sharing the decryption key so that it remains safe. The more individuals have access to a key, the more likely it will be leaked and render the control entirely useless. So even when someone leaves the organization, the key needs to be rotated, and files need to be re-encrypted.

Over Restricting Data Access

Access restrictions are essential for imposing the principle of least privilege. Users should only have access to the data they need to do their jobs and only when they need it. This is challenging to implement as removing access after it is no longer necessary does not scale well. The act of removing and scoping access for a single user is easy, but as more users are in the system being tracked and managed, it can become multiple full-time jobs to oversee.

To get the level of protection they want with their infrastructure, Healthcare companies may overcompensate by making gaining access difficult. With complex and time-consuming approval processes for even clear-cut needs, they cripple their efficiency. While the reasons for restricting access make sense, the implementation leaves much to be desired.

Locking the Doors to Keep Data In 

The other challenge of traditional data security solutions is that it prevents the use of advances in technology. Conforming to the legacy security policies means all solutions must be on-premises to contain data within a secure boundary. This limits your organization to using owned hardware, placing hard limits on the ability to scale up data analysis. Also, as with most hardware, there is a limited lifespan, and eventually, it will have to be replaced.

Using the cloud is also fraught with risks for organizations that have not had solid experience. As the cloud uses a shared security responsibility model, the customer is partially responsible for security configurations. Those who do not have the knowledge or a solution that does the heavy lifting for them can open the door to greater risk. Any failures in securing cloud endpoints can have catastrophic risks as it exists accessible on the web by its nature.

 

Secure Data Sharing is Possible 

Healthcare organizations do not have to be locked down by traditional methods of securing their information. Modern data encryption solutions now allow healthcare organizations to reap all of the benefits of sharing information among teams, scalable cloud computing, and data analytics without sacrificing security. Doing this takes a holistic platform that merges user access, data encryption, and threat analytics.

Encryption In Use 

The first part of this puzzle is encryption. To bypass the challenges above, the encryption solution needs to keep the keys outside of the user’s hands and broker access for them. By checking permissions, it can verify what level of access they currently have assigned to them. This allows simple tasks like data entry to collect and add data without digging through everything others have added.

The other trick here is only to encrypt data at the point that it is necessary. Where traditional solutions need to decrypt data when it needs to be read or modified, modern solutions don’t. Instead of decrypting an entire data set to query information, the software can query the whole set. At the same time, the fields are still encrypted and only display the final targeted results if the user has rights.

Scoping Data Access 

Dealing out access on a person-by-person basis is far from efficient. Modern data encryption solutions use role-based access control (RBAC) to assign permissions to groups of similar users instead. Instead of granting access to each pediatric nurse to view patient records for their ward, rights are granted to a group containing the users. This way, as users change, such as transferring from pediatrics to cardiology, the role of the group remains constant. It’s simply the group’s membership that changes.

This same type of concept scales well for sharing across teams and the organization. Different groups can be created that have very scoped access for the group. For instance, researchers may need to review the data collected but have absolutely no reason to alter it, while lab techs can enter in data while it is collected. Each group has different rights and privileges with the same data.

Embracing Cloud Data Security

With advances in cloud computing and a global workforce, the need for sharing data and collaboration is imperative. Cloud computing allows scalable resources to assess large quantities of data and generate insights that can only be gathered from big data analytics. Open sharing allows top minds in the field to collaborate on projects worldwide.

When used appropriately, the cloud is a valuable resource—using cloud services to dynamically scale up computing power as needed rather than paying for infrastructure is part of this. The cloud offers opportunities to stand up technology when required, such as temporarily collecting data for studies and decommissioning it at the end. This allows organizations to get the computing power they need that is accessible globally and only pay for the time they use it rather than paying for permanent infrastructure to collect dust.

It has to be done right for the cloud to work with the Healthcare industry and meet all security and compliance requirements. This means using a solution that layers the controls into the cloud for you. It requires a solution that projects encryption and manages it for you in the cloud space rather than trusting a cloud provider to hold the keys. This prevents the risk of third parties from getting into the data, and even if a breach occurs, the data is entirely unreadable to outside parties.

 

Sotero Drives Innovation 

Learn how Sotero can help your organization find balance in protecting your data while still allowing the accessibility to drive innovation. Using cutting-edge data encryption technology, Sotero is experienced in helping Healthcare companies improve productivity while still meeting compliance requirements.

Schedule a demo today to discover how Sotero can gain complete control over their data privacy, compliance, audibility, and governance.

Tags:

data protection,

data regulations,

data security

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