Healthcare – Industry Deep Dive

6 min read
Mar 13, 2023
Healthcare – Industry Deep Dive

The human lifespan has doubled since 1800, largely thanks to healthcare improvements – the engine of our society’s well-being. Beyond hospitals, doctors, nurses, and medicine, protected health information (PHI) is an essential vehicle for the healthcare industry. It has to be safeguarded and handled efficiently to benefit patients, medical research, and privacy. PHI is a fundamental right protected by the laws of many countries, including the US and Canada. 

One of the healthcare industry’s significant challenges is handling PHI. Throughout the past decade, cybercriminals have targeted medical institutions, which has cost millions of dollars while exposing personal and sensitive patient information. One well-known example is Anthem Inc.’s 2015 data breach. Hackers stole nearly 79 million patient and employee records, costing the company $115 million

Handling PHI is challenging. A segment of PHI may need to be accessed by certain entities. Technological challenges involve the logistics of sharing anonymized health data and proprietary algorithms across jurisdictions. Medical research also depends on the secure and seamless handling of patient data.

Kelvin Zero solutions address these security and operative challenges. For example, SoLID powers authentication (via Multi-Pass) and consent more securely, compliant, and efficiently than the cumbersome, legacy processes of the healthcare industry. SoLID, like other Kelvin Zero tools, can be integrated into existing systems and programs. Kelvin Zero empowers industries, such as healthcare, to secure PHI with ease of use while being compliant and taking on the cybersecurity challenges of our modern society.

What is at stake

Protected health information describes health data created, received, stored, or transmitted by entities and their business associates to provide healthcare, operations, and payment for healthcare services. These entities are governed by laws designed to protect PHI, such as HIPAA and PIPEDA. 

PHI can refer to an individual’s physical or mental health or condition transmitted by electronic media, maintained in electronic media, or maintained in any other form or medium. The contents of PHI vary but may include and are not limited to demographic data, medical histories, test results, insurance information, and other information used to identify a patient or provide healthcare services or coverage. 

The sensitive nature of PHI has severe implications for individuals and the general public health. Every bit and piece of protected health information is essential for the health and well-being of an individual, and it is an underlying pinnacle for medical research. Mishandling PHI is detrimental and can be a costly matter. The risk of mishandling is prevalent anytime it is transmitted from point A to point B. 

The transmission of PHI across various entities creates a “free-flowing” vulnerability that increases the risk of cyber criminals maliciously obtaining information. In conjunction with SoLID, SHERLOCK traces data validations and maintains auditability, which can mitigate the dangers of “free-flowing” PHI. By leveraging live ledger indexing, machine learning, and blockchain intelligence, SHERLOCK can track, trace, and investigate digital operations in real-time.

Case studies: breaches and data disasters in healthcare

As cited above, the 2015 Anthem, Inc. data breach is one of the healthcare industry’s most well-known data disasters, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and exposing personal employee and patient data. Unfortunately, clinical trials are no strangers to data breaches, either. In 2020, Philadelphia-based eResearchTechnology, which sells software used in hundreds of clinical trials, fell victim to a ransomware attack. The company claimed that “clinical trial patients were never at risk, but customers said the attack forced trial researchers to track their patients with pen and paper.” 

Once hackers enter an entity’s internal system, they have unfettered access to any information available, including sensitive patient data. This attack put a dent in clinical trials — which in this case included COVID vaccine trials — by forcing researchers off their systems and relying on “pen and paper,” meaning efficiency, ease of use, and, more importantly, the health and well-being of patients were compromised.

A ransomware attack is usually caused by phishing emails or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). By way of RDP, a hacker who has stolen or guessed an employee’s login credentials can use them to authenticate and remotely access a computer within the enterprise network. All it takes for criminals to access an entity’s system is a weak password or one unsuspecting employee clicking on a malicious link.

These types of attacks on the healthcare industry are becoming more common. While advancements in treatments and medicine increase yearly, the technology used to protect, transmit, and secure, protected health information still needs to be updated. With Kelvin Zero, the sensitive patient data remains safe and anonymous without compromising the sharing of proprietary algorithms vital for clinical research across various healthcare jurisdictions. 

Safeguarding patient-protected health information

Adopting secure, efficient, and seamless protocols to guard protected health information across the healthcare industry is the only way to prevent breaches and malicious usage of PHI. 

Kelvin Zero has partnered with the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) to address the challenges they face in today’s digital landscape. Confirming someone’s identity and protecting sensitive data are critical in the medical industry. For this reason, Kelvin Zero’s solutions are at the forefront of solving some of the issues the MHI faces. Kelvin Zero works with the MHI to integrate SoLID into their hybrid and digital research programs. The partnership means Kelvin Zero can integrate an identity and data encryption platform to bring new digital features

to their research program. Among these features are the digital onboarding of patients, consent management across decentralized networks, and cross-organizational data analysis and computation.

Kelvin Zero integrates a unique identity encryption module into the MHI’s research system to assign unique identifiers to patients and use digital signatures to manage traceable patient access controls. In addition, using SoLID to manage patient consent within the digital environment works by linking patient identifiers to traceable digital transactions posted on a blockchain network. SoLID goes beyond identity and consent and can validate any data object via posted digital signatures. This is implemented by using the SoLID data platform to develop a homomorphic data encryption system and enable zero-knowledge, collaborative database analysis for the MHI and their clinical research network.

You can read more about Kelvin Zero’s partnership with the Montreal Heart Institute and learn more about protecting sensitive data and its critical role in the medical industry here.

Privacy is a pillar of protected health information. Yet, data privacy, security, and collaboration remain significant challenges for the healthcare industry. There is no better exemplification to address these challenges than the Secur-e-Health project. It’s s a €20 million international project with 34 partners across eight countries dedicated to solving data issues in the medical industry to develop multiple privacy-preserving data-sharing applications in the healthcare industry.

As project leader, Kelvin Zero coordinates the implementation of multiple systems, including our SoLID technology, to create a secure and easy way for healthcare organizations to collaborate and share data insights. This enables participants to share health data securely and anonymously while sharing proprietary algorithms between nations without revealing sensitive information regarding the algorithms. 

You can learn more about the Secur-e-Health project here.

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