Why Protecting Your Medical Records Is Crucial: The Importance of Data Privacy and Security
July 25, 2023
At some point in your life, you will need medical care, whether it's for routine check-ups, minor illnesses, or serious medical conditions. During which, you may be asked to provide personal information such as your name, date of birth, and address. This information is used to create your medical record, which contains a detailed history of your health and medical treatments. After all, this data is incredibly sensitive, and you likely trust your healthcare providers to keep it protected. However, as the world increasingly relies on digital technology for medical care, it's essential to recognise the risks associated with this shift. According to research, healthcare organisations have been increasingly exposed to cyberattacks in recent years. In fact, 45% of healthcare organisations experienced a phishing attack, 17%experienced ransomware attacks, and 7% experienced data breaches or leakage in the past years. This concerning trend highlights the need for better data privacy and security measures to safeguard your sensitive medical information. Protecting your healthcare data is critical for your safety and well-being and maintaining trust and confidence in the healthcare system as a whole.
Legal Basis of Medical Confidentiality
Medical confidentiality is an ethical and legal obligation that healthcare providers have to protect the privacy of patients’ medical information. This obligation is rooted in the principle of patient autonomy, which recognises the patient's right to control the disclosure of their personal health information. Additionally, medical confidentiality is alsorequired by law in many jurisdictions, and healthcare providers who fail to protect patient privacy can be subject to legal liability and disciplinary action.
Medical confidentiality is protected in many countries by laws or regulations governing healthcare practices. For example, in the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) establishes strict standards for protecting patient privacy and imposes severe penalties for violations. Similarly, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union sets strict rules on how personal data, including medical data, can be collected, processed, and stored.
The Patient’s Right to Their Health Data
As a patient, you have the right to access your health records and control who has access to your data. HIPAA gives patients access to their medical records, including test results, diagnoses, and treatment plans. Knowing who holds your medical records is the first step in getting them. Once you know where your healthcare information is located, it's time to make a request for them. To get your medical records, you need to fill out an authorisation form with the provider and specify what information you want. Ask about any fees and when you can expect to receive your records. If your request is denied, remember that you have a right to access your records.
Risks of Losing Your Medical Information and Medical Reports
Losing healthcare information and medical reports can have serious consequences for patients. Medical records contain private information like medical histories, test results, and treatment plans. If this information is lost or stolen, it can be used for identity theft or fraud. Also, it can lead to medical errors and delays in receiving proper medical care. Discover the common causes of health data breaches, medical data loss, and how it can impact patients below.
Common Causes of Health Data Breaches
According to a report by HIPAA Journal, the healthcare industry has experienced a significant number of data breaches in recent years. Between 2009 until 2022, 5,150 healthcare data breaches were reported, exposing over three million individual’s records. Health data breaches occur when unauthorised individuals, entities access or disclose patient information. These breaches can occur in various ways, including:
Hackers can access healthcare systems and steal sensitive patient information through various methods, such as phishing emails, malware, ransomware, or by exploiting vulnerabilities in software systems. It’s reported that the number of records exposed in hacking incidents increased from 2013 until 2015, with over hundred million records being exposed in 2015.
Employees or third-party vendors with authorised access to patient data may intentionally or unintentionally cause a breach by sharing or mishandling data. This can occur due to a lack of training, malicious intent, or simple carelessness. There were over seven million records affected in this incident reported in 2022. This show that healthcare organisations must implement strict policies and procedures to monitor and control access to patient data.
According to HIPAA reports from2009 to 2022, there were 1232 theft incidents in healthcare organizations. These incidents involved the physical theft of paper records or electronic devices containing patient data. Healthcare organizations are not only vulnerable to cyberattacks but also to theft of laptops, mobile devices, or other equipment that may contain patient data. Such incidents can result insignificant breaches of patient confidentiality and privacy.
Human error, such as sending sensitive data to the wrong recipient, misplacing files, or failing to encrypt data properly, and improper disposal incidents can also cause data breaches. For example, the staff could leave patient records or documents containing sensitive information in a recycling bin or dumpster instead of properly shredding and disposing them. This can occur due to a lack of training, inadequate security measures, or a failure to follow established protocols.
Healthcare providers must take steps to prevent data breaches and respond quickly and appropriately if a breach occurs. This can include implementing strong security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, access controls, and training employees to handle sensitive patient information. By taking these steps, healthcare providers can help protect patient privacy and maintain trust in the healthcare system.
Impact of Medical Data Loss to the Patient
Medical data loss can have a significant impact on patients, both in terms of their health outcomes and their privacy. Here are some of the ways in which medical data loss can affect patients:
Delayed or Inappropriate Treatment
When medical data is lost, healthcare providers may not have access to critical information needed to make accurate diagnoses and develop appropriate treatment plans. This can lead to delayed or inappropriate treatment, which can have a negative impact on patient outcomes.
Medical data loss can also increase the risk of medical errors, such as prescribing the wrong medication or performing the incorrect procedure. Without complete and accurate medical data, healthcare providers may make mistakes that can harm patients. For instance, if a patient’s medical history, allergies, or current medications are not available to their healthcare provider, they may not able to accurately diagnose the patient’s condition or develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Loss of Continuity of Care
Medical data loss can disrupt continuity of care, as patients may have to provide the same information repeatedly to different healthcare providers. This can be frustrating for patients and may lead to inconsistencies in their care. This can result in the repetition the previous tests or procedures, leading to increasing healthcare costs and prolonged recovery time.
Medical data loss can also raise privacy concerns, as patients' personal health information may be exposed to unauthorized parties. Hackers who gain access to patient’s personal information, such as their name, address, and social security number, can use that information to open new credit accounts, apply for loans, and even file tax returns in their name.
Patients may also experience emotional distress when their medical data is lost, as it can be difficult to cope with the uncertainty and potential repercussions. For example if the hackers using the patient’s compromised information to make fraudulent purchases or drain their bank account. Even if they are able to recover the funds, it can be a time-consuming and stressful process.
In summary, medical data loss can have significant negative impacts on patients' health outcomes, privacy, and emotional well-being. It is essential for healthcare providers and organisations to prioritise the security and protection of patients' medical data to prevent data loss and minimise potential harm to patients.
How You Can Protect Your Medical Records
As a patient, there are steps you can take to protect your medical records and ensure your personal health information remains secure. Here are some tips for safeguarding your sensitive healthcare information:
Understand Your Rights
As mentioned earlier, patients have the right to access their medical records and control who has access to their data. Educate yourself on your rights under HIPAA and other relevant laws to ensure you are aware of what information you can request and what actions you can take to protect your privacy.
Choose Strong Passwords
When setting up online accounts with your healthcare providers, ensure you use strong and unique passwords for each account. Avoid using common passwords such as "password123" or "123456," as these can be easily guessed by hackers. Instead, create complex passwords that include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Be Cautious When Sharing Information
Be careful when sharing your health information with others, whether over the phone, email, or online. Only share your information with trusted healthcare providers or organisations, and avoid sharing sensitive information such as your social security number or financial information unless it is absolutely necessary.
Encryption is a method of converting sensitive information into code to prevent unauthorised access. Ensure your healthcare providers use encryption to protect your medical data when it is being transmitted or stored.
Keep Your Devices Secure
Ensure the devices you use to access your medical records, such as your computer or smartphone, are secure. This includes keeping your operating system and antivirus software up to date, avoiding public Wi-Fi networks when accessing sensitive information, and enabling two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Regularly Check Your Medical Records
Regularly checking your medical records can help you identify any errors or discrepancies in your data. If you notice any issues, alert your healthcare provider immediately to have them corrected.
By taking these steps to protect your medical records, you can help safeguard your personal health information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
How Jonda Protects Your Health Data and Information
Jonda uses the highest standards of data privacy and security to protect your health data, including end-to-end encryption and zero-knowledge encryption. Our platform fully complies with strict privacy laws like HIPAA,GDPR, and PDPA.
This is a method of data encryption to ensure that third parties can’t access your data even when it’s transferred from one system to another.
This is a crucial aspect of Jonda’s data privacy and security, which means no one, not even Jonda Health can read, access, or share any of your information without your permission.
Protecting Your Health Data: Understanding HIPAA, GDPR, and PDPA Compliance
With Jonda, the strictest of laws are applied to protect your health data from being disclosed without your consent or knowledge.
Jonda is fully compliant with the HIPAA, a set of regulations ensuring the privacy and security of healthcare data in the United States. This means that Jonda has implemented various measures to protect your healthcare data, such as access controls, audit trails, and data encryption.
Jonda is also compliant with the GDPR, which is a set of regulations that ensures the privacy and security of personal data of EU citizens. This means that Jonda has implemented various measures to protect your personal data, such as access controls, data encryption, and data subject rights.
Jonda complies with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) by appointing a Data Protection Officer, implementing policies and procedures, obtaining consent, implementing security measures, and providing employee training. This protects personal data, builds customer trust, and ensures PDPA compliance.
Jonda is more than just a health tracking app – it's a commitment to your privacy and security. It’s a platform that enables you to take control of your health journey with confidence, knowing that your sensitive medical information is protected by robust data encryption measures. This ensures that only authorised parties can access your data, building a strong doctor-patient relationship and fostering personalised care based on accurate data.
These values can empower you to take charge of your health data, resulting in a collaborative and empowering healthcare journey.
Take control of your health data today and elevate your healthcare experience with Jonda.