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Why is data privacy of the utmost importance in the health tech industry? How can one store data in a way that complies with the rules and regulations.

Data privacy in Healthcare places an extremely crucial role as the nature of the information is quite sensitive and personal. Every patient expects their health information about medical conditions, treatments and results to be kept private. 

Data privacy measures like access, encryption, secure storage, all help in maintaining confidentiality between the patients and their healthcare providers. 

Here’s why data privacy plays a key role in the healthcare industry. 

  1. Trust: Data privacy keeps the healthcare providers trustworthy and the patient confident, which would allow them to fearlessly share accurate and complete information with each other. Also helping hospitals and clinics share customised, patient-centred, informed decisions and make effective treatment plans. 
  2. Legality: Hospitals are legally bound to protect patient data. HIPAA in the US and GDPR in Europe have set clear standards for data privacy and security. If health care providers fail to comply, it can result in consequences, penalties and reputational damage. 
  3. Data breach: many cyber criminals target healthcare data as sensitive information is very valuable. Data breach can lead to identity theft, fraud and other malicious activities. Thus it needs strict measures to reduce the security risk. 
  4. Personalised medical care: AI and data analytics allow healthcare companies to develop better, and personalised medical treatments. Thus this data must be protected for advanced treatments, early disease detection and more. 

Different countries have their own legislation and regulations to protect healthcare data. The United States has HIPAA, the EU has GDPR, Canada has PIPEDA, Australia has APPs.

Let’s talk about GDPR and HIPAA:  

  1. GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation is applicable to any health tech organizations in the EU which collects, stores or processes personal info. This also includes companies which develop health related apps used by EU citizens. 
  2. HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is applicable to all health tech companies in the US that engage in health plans or treatments, and are hence required to comply with the privacy and security regulations. 

But what happens if companies don’t comply? 

GDPR Consequences:

  • Financial Penalties: Organizations that breach GDPR can face huge fines which can be up to 4% of the organization’s global annual revenue or €20 million.
  • Legal Actions and Lawsuits: legal actions might be taken by affected individuals, data protection authorities, or other organizations. Patients can seek compensation for damages resulting from the violation, and regulators can initiate enforcement actions. 
  • Reputational Damage: The public is aware of privacy rights and data protection, and hence can defame organizations which fail to protect data resulting in loss of customer trust and negative PR. 

HIPAA Consequences:

  • Penalties: violation penalties can vary depending on the damage caused,  and can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with an annual cap of $1.5 million for each type of violation.
  • Criminal Charges: intentional HIPAA violations can lead to criminal charges, including imprisonment for up to 10 years.
  • Investigations: The U.S. department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) conducts investigations and audits to assess compliance.  
  • Reputation Impact: violations can lead to significant reputational damage as news of data breaches or privacy lapses can break patient trust and lead to loss in revenue. 

So how does one fail to comply with regulations? Here are a few types: 

Types of  Violations:

  1. Not taking consent: Collecting personal data without consent from patients or failing to provide transparent info about sharing patient info
  2. Not enough data security: Not implementing the right measure to secure patient data from breaches or loss
  3. Data transfer: sharing data without safeguarding it or giving patient data to external stakeholders
  4. Improper use: Using or disclosing patient data for profit or other gains without permission
  5. Not complying: Not giving patients the right to access, rectify or erase their personal data

These violations can however differ based on circumstances, scale and impact. 

But what measures can healthcare companies take to implement the right measures for privacy and security? Let’s take a look: 

  1. Control access: keeping only the patient and doctor in the loop, and implementing  authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, thus enforcing access control only to the authorized people. 
  2. Data encryption: encrypt all sensitive information to protect it and ensure that if it’s stolen or incepted, it stays unreadable without the decryption keys. 
  3. Secure infrastructure: Maintain an up to date security infrastructure like firewalls, detection systems, and regularly conduct checks for leaks or issues. 
  4. Train employees: Training the staff on security protocols is important. This promotes awareness of risks, phishing attacks, and secure handling of data. 
  5. Privacy policies: keep processes in place which handle the storing and sharing of patient data  the right away, hence maintaining consistencies in data protection. 
  6. Secure data sharing: Using secure channels such as encrypted emails and avoiding unsecured public wi-fi networks to share sensitive information. 
  7. Keep a plan in place: Develop a plan to handle a data breach, which can contain protocols to mitigate impact and handling patients and law authorities. 

If you work in the healthcare industry and are looking to safely store sensitive information, DocuVault is one solution that could solve all your needs and requirements. It provides secure transmission, data leak safeguarding, unlimited file storage, access control and foolproof security measures, when it comes to yours and patient data.