Improvements in technology have led to greater concerns about maintaining our privacy. Much of this revolves around social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but the concerns between technology and privacy exist in health care as well. Considering health care spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research every year, this directly impacts the market research industry. Health care professionals now can have all the information they need in a tablet or smart phone instead of mountains of paperwork and dozens of filing cabinets. Sometimes it’s available on a local drive, but other times it’s on the internet.
As pointed out in the article “Security and Privacy Issues with Health Care Information Technology”, having patient records on the internet allows access to people who are authorized, but allows “hackers and other malicious attackers to access the records.” Paper records, on the other hand, don’t allow for this kind of misuse to occur. Long gone are the days of the burglar in all black sneaking through the office to collect sensitive documents. Today’s information thieves, or hackers, hide behind a computer and suffer from carpal tunnel.
Don’t fret too much, though. As the article points out, there are ways to combat these privacy issues:
- Role-based Access Control – This is a system that is put in place to allow differing levels of access to authorized users. Certain users don’t have “permission” to see certain documents or have a type of “read-only” access. It’s a system that is useful in warding off malicious users from accessing certain medical records. If a medical professional’s account is hacked, the access could be made restricted to the point where they don’t see anything in the database.
- Encryption – If the medical health care records of patients are properly encrypted, it would make it harder for hackers to steal relevant information from them, much less view those documents. Encryption can be used in either computer hardware or software. To achieve the maximum amount of privacy, the health care field would be wise to use both kinds of encryption for their records.
- Authentication Mechanisms – Security measures like passwords, digital signatures, and various authentication protocols exist in order to verify that the users viewing the health care records are actually who they claim to be. The mechanisms rely heavily on how complicated the users make their passwords and usernames, but it is effective in preventing the skimming of personal information.
It’s with the utmost sense of caution that health care technology is moving forward into the next era. Since the two industries are tied so closely together, the privacy concerns of health care and market research are one and the same. All in all, digital access is still an incredibly convenient way to see a medical health care patient’s records as well as members that participate in market research focus groups. The security surrounding those records is only going to improve as time goes on.
The opportunities for research will also continue to rise as more health care facilities and providers move toward collecting patient data digitally. Confidentiality is essential as researchers can now collect large amounts of data and analyze it in order to make advances in health care outcomes, patient services, and more.
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Source: Security and Privacy Issues with Health Care Information Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California