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Data breaches, hefty fines, and reputational risk are often cited by the health care community as the primary deterrents from sharing and collaborating on sensitive information. While HIPAA and HITECH allow information sharing for diagnostic, treatment, and operational purposes, organizations must establish complete trust in each other's security infrastructures. Otherwise, questions arise surrounding responsibility and accountability when security incidents occur. The trust requirement discourages data movement and incentivizes health care organizations to keep data locked within specific departments, limiting use across entire hospitals or research systems. The result? 

  1. Data silos that hold groundbreaking information out of reach from researchers.
  2. Integration and execution challenges of digital transformation.
  3. Missed opportunities for applying data to mission-critical problems.

Regulation creates moving compliance targets, unintentionally blocking innovation and hindering the implementation of efficient digital solutions. This article presents a way forward — data laws don't have to limit accelerated digital transformation. Why? The introduction and development of an emergent category of solutions known as privacy-enhancing technologies (PET).

Outdated & Siloed Data

Static data silos are the enemy of health care interoperability, limiting the valuable information streams that transform operational processes or accelerate innovation. Institutions generate data for a specific purpose, use the data, and then securely stow it away. Due to regulations and siloing, this data becomes inaccessible for future use.

Most health care data also has potential to serve secondary purposes. Discoveries in drug development, revolutionary treatments and more require data aggregation of health records, family history, genomics, environmental factors, and IoT health monitoring data. Inability to efficiently aggregate data prevents hospitals and research institutions from making progress and breakthrough discoveries.

We could leverage siloed data for positive global impacts –– like curing cancer, improving medical resource distribution, or reducing the cost of high-quality care. It's no wonder that a leading question in the health care community is, "How can we make data silos dynamic and accessible without violating global and sector-specific data regulations?"

This question further challenges health care professionals, as organizations must rigorously assess disruptive technologies –– lest they become the latest infamous headliner with a third-party data breach. Health care organizations are also responsible for training professionals on new software and privacy best practices during implementation, adding operational complexity. Disjointed approaches can potentially lead to data breaches, disgruntled professionals, and increased determination to lock information up rather than collaborate with it.

Integration and Execution Challenges

Health care leaders and professionals know firsthand how challenging it can be to integrate an organization's culture, operation, and talent skill set with upcoming technologies. Hospital CEOs and CTOs see the need to implement digital infrastructure to increase operational efficiency, catalyze research, or improve patient interactions. There's a clear value proposition: health care workers can save time and resources, freeing up opportunities to provide better care (on an individual level) and drive revenue opportunities (on an organizational level). 

However, the actual implementation of new technologies can create additional requirements for doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and other healthcare professionals. While many of these professionals might welcome and quickly learn to use technologies, others might feel less inclined. With nearly one-third of physicians reporting that they spend 20 hours or more a week on paperwork and administrative tasks, new technologies can and should reduce repetitive documentation so health care professionals can prioritize patient care.

What do health care leaders need to make unified strategy and execution decisions? Access to high-quality data and the tools to safely and efficiently store, process, and operationalize it to propel an effective digital transformation forward. Imagine a universe where new, data-driven technologies free up hours for doctors to foster high-quality relationships with patients, and in turn, provide holistic and humanized health care. Imagine reducing wait times in offices by streamlining information collection from patients, payers, and providers. Imagine synthesizing global data on the world’s most pressing health problems and devising revolutionary solutions –– at a fraction of the cost. The possibilities are endless, so let’s explore a hypothetical use-case for data-collaborative transformation between health care parties.

Data Drives Digital Transformation

As health systems acknowledge, integrate, and accelerate new technologies, they’ll be able to address these integration and execution challenges in data collaboration. Investment into data interoperability and API solutions are among the top priorities for health care organizations in 2022, with an additional focus on creating comprehensive KPIs to track progress. Since data is the backbone of these developments, it makes more sense for health care groups to collaborate than operate in silos. 

One example of data-collaborative transformation between health care parties could be the development of a prescription tracking and refill application built with data sourced from hospitals and retail pharmacies. Doctors need to know which drugs they prescribe to patients and when a refill might be in order. While their hospital might possess data on the former, retail pharmacies have the latter: detailed insights on what a patient is taking that was prescribed by one doctor and by doctors from other hospitals. An application that leverages data from both parties could enable patients to track their prescription consumption individually, preventing dispensing errors, promoting safe use and monitoring, and alleviating interoperability challenges between hospitals and pharmacies. Hospitals and pharmacies can also gain secondary insights from medication consumption data and incorporate these findings into future research models. It's a win-win for all parties.

Stringent regulations, rigid data silos, and complex implementation don't have to impede use cases like this. Engineers from around the world have built promising technologies, such as secure enclaves, tokenization approaches, homomorphic encryption, federated learning, and more to address data privacy and security challenges. These privacy-enhancing technologies provide a backbone for data to drive digital transformation. Health care organizations can harness groundbreaking insights and advance outcomes for all patients and populations as PETs improve.

Privacy Enhancing Technologies Unlock Data Collaboration

TripleBlind, a Kansas-City-based company, solves data challenges in health care by improving the privacy-enhancing technologies listed above. Its team of world-class engineers and cryptographers crafted heavily-verified one-way encryption technology that enables collaboration with sensitive health care information –– no exchange of raw data necessary. No decryption key exists either, meaning the original encryption is entirely irreversible. Data consumers can run any operation approved by a data provider, protect the intellectual value of their algorithms, and garner critical insights from data sets. Data providers can set permissions on what data third parties can use, track operations on data sets, and put the information they own to future use. 

The TripleBlind Solution improves upon previous privacy-enhancing technologies by increasing security, reducing computation and speed costs, and eliminating expensive de-identification tasks. Through its entirely software-based and API-driven approach, data providers and users can interact via a peer-to-peer connection without the need for resource-intensive business and legal agreements. The TripleBlind Solution operates both on-prem and in the cloud, encouraging interoperability between health care providers. Of the current privacy-enhancing technologies available, this approach is the most complete and scalable –– solving compliance issues and encouraging data collaboration.

Health care organizations can ensure HIPAA compliance and foster innovation with innovative solutions for privacy-enhancing technology. The "red tape" of privacy regulations can become instead a red carpet leading to reliable data protections in health care, especially as privacy-enhancing technologies give the green light for rapid, secure, and industry-shifting digital transformations. The TripleBlind Solution is one key reason data regulations won't hinder health care's digital transformation.


Author Bio:Audrey Warters is a Marketing Coordinator at TripleBlind, which provides the most complete and scalable solution for privacy-enhancing computation, allowing organizations to fully and securely leverage the value of sensitive data.Warters is a 2021 graduate from Minerva University, where she received a B.A.Sc in Political Science and Philosophy. She completed a thesis titled, "The Data Rights and Privacy Protections Act of 2021," a draft federal policy for data rights in the United States. She brings her passion for creative storytelling and eye-catching communication to the Marketing and Sales teams. Her previous experiences include writing and designing campaigns for global institutions, such as Microsoft Philanthropies and the Urban and Social Integration sector of the Argentine government. She is fascinated by the intersection of technology, politics, and future innovation. When she’s not writing, you can find Audrey rock climbing, attending a poetry slam, or boarding a flight to travel around the world.