Data security in cloud-based medical image sharing platforms

Healthcare Technology
Blog
Friday June 28, 2019 · PointClear Solutions

4 MIN. READ

The internet and cloud have transformed countless industries, including healthcare. One of the most significant impacts is the ability to exchange information among physicians, patients and providers. Medical-image sharing on the cloud can increase the timeliness and ease of access to information, improving the patient experience and quality of care.

As the use of cloud-based platforms to share images becomes increasingly prevalent, data security is of heightened concern. Controlling access while ensuring that healthcare providers can obtain the medical information and scans when they are needed is a challenge.

Cloud users in healthcare have the added challenge of complying with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations to ensure the privacy of patient records. How can a provider leverage the collaborative benefits of sharing medical images while maintaining privacy and complying with the law?

Security involves planning

To secure images stored and shared in the cloud in the best way, you must have an information security plan that tracks how and when images will be viewable and helps you identify vulnerabilities. With a plan, you know what data (images) you’re storing in the cloud and, more importantly, the risks posed if they are compromised. Then, you can concern yourself with controlling access.

Understanding data ownership

Part of planning is knowing who is responsible for securing information. An interesting question that arises in access control of a medical record is legal ownership of medical data. Patients have privacy rights under federal and state laws, but your medical records are technically owned by the provider that captures and documents the information. That means providers are custodians of the records and must handle them in accordance with the legal requirements.


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Securing access to medical images

With the cloud, medical images can be reached via desktop or mobile devices. That is a convenience for patients and providers, but it can increase risk. Access should, of course, only be provided to those who are entitled to view the images, such as patients and physicians authorized by the patient according to HIPAA procedures.

Encryption adds a buffer

Standard data-protection practices such as encryption can ensure that only people authorized to view the medical images can have access to the files in the cloud. Encryption is a fundamental element of securing public cloud storage and access. Without the right key to unlock the image, the data is useless, limiting the potential damage of unauthorized access.

Watermarking is a similar method for disguising data. But in medical imaging, only reversible watermarking technology is acceptable, meaning it preserves the ability to restore the entire original image.

Monitoring ensures records are seen only by those who should

While encryption protects files from being opened, and to some extent discourages data theft, monitoring helps ensure that only authorized individuals can see the cloud-based medical images. A comprehensive sharing platform not only provides a method of obtaining records, it provides monitoring access and compliance.

DDoS, an existential threat to networking technology

Access control is a critical component of medical-image security, but bad actors sometimes are not necessarily looking to steal images, they want to disrupt a provider’s business operations. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack involves overloading a targeted website with malicious traffic that can cause services to go offline.

That loss of connectivity can cost businesses considerably. Beyond immediate financial damage, such as lost patient revenue for a certain period, a DDoS attack can erode patient trust.

A comprehensive cloud-based medical-imaging platform can solve that problem by removing the data from local servers and adding enterprise-level security in the cloud. Cloud providers are not immune to DDoS, but they’re often better equipped to monitor, defend and respond to such attacks.

Enhancing the patient-provider relationship

Digitally exchanging secure images results in better care. When access is controlled, but open to the members of your care team, patients end up with better care, sooner. Ultimately, that easy but secure access means providers are more productive, efficient and accurate. A secure cloud environment ensures that the benefits of using a digital platform for image sharing are realized.

An example of how images can be shared securely in the cloud among providers is Nuance, who we partnered with to develop the PowerShare Imaging network. The electronic medical records (EMR) platform facilitates sharing more than three billion medical records. It’s a self-service platform that delivers an optimal user experience, ease of access and security.

For more information on how PointClear can help you design, strategize, develop, and maintain secure, user-friendly technology, read our customer stories.

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