Cyber security and health data: Was 2015 a turning point in healthcare?

As 2015 comes to a close we’re seeing a number of articles on the growing cyber security challenge and healthcare is far from immune to this challenge. Earlier this autumn we posted an article on the growing value of health data on the dark web and how hackers were using this data in combination with other forms of data to become more efficient at identity theft. Fear of hackers is one of the issues driving slow adoption of cloud computing in healthcare which makes it difficult to really implement the digital health promise of anytime/anywhere health.Attack of the health hackers

Rounding out the year, the Financial Times ran an article this week about the record number of hacked medical records in 2015 which numbered over 100 million patient records. The Anthem hack during the summer of 2015 exposed the databases of Anthem containing over 78m people who had been members of Anthem since 2004. Eight of the ten largest hacks in history happened in 2015.

The FT article points fingers at China and the growing investment in healthcare in China. The black market rate for credit card records runs about $1 whereas the complete medical record of an individual will garner $200-$2000 on the black market. Getting hacked has turned out to be expensive for Anthem which has had to pay over $200m so far.

All of this is coming at a time when the value of sharing health data is growing as well. Cyber hygiene is going to be one of the big issues going forward if we are going to realize the potential of precision medicine which demands integrating data from a vast number of databases and will need citizen engagement with health data in a major way. We hear a lot of talk about patient engagement these days but what we really need is substantive engagement with patients and more effort to protect their data and educate the public about the need for data for research.

This is one of the reasons we started healthbank. Going forward, innovation in digital health will need as much attention on security and engagement as developing new devices. We’ve begun looking at the emerging technology ecosystem around Blockchain as one step in this direction that could potentially offer greater patient control of data, security as well as the ability to share data. But sharing demands security on both ends of the spectrum and we hope to start encouraging more dialog on this front as well as offering our own solution here at healthbank.

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