Why anonymizing health data is useful?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are both privacy standards that protect personal data. Both GDPR and HIPAA require organizations to protect personal data as a way to mitigate risks associated with personal information. This blog post outlines how the GDPR and HIPAA updates overlap, their similarities, their differences, and what you need to know about anonymizing health data under each of these regulations.
What is GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation)?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation that aims to protect individuals’ privacy. With the increased use of technology, the GDPR helps organizations that collect or process data about European Union (EU) citizens by imposing greater transparency requirements and stronger penalties for non-compliance. The GDPR applies to all EU citizens, regardless of where the organization that manages their data is located. Organizations that collect or manage data about EU citizens, such as healthcare organizations, must comply with the GDPR rules. The GDPR has five main principles:
Data minimization – Organizations should collect only the amount of data necessary to achieve their stated purpose.
Data accuracy – Organizations should maintain accurate data and periodically update the information to ensure that it remains current.
Data retention – Organizations should retain data only as long as necessary for the completion of their stated purpose.
Data portability – Individuals whose data is collected by an organization should be able to access and transfer their data to another organization.
Data security – Organizations should protect individuals’ data through appropriate security controls, such as encryption.
What is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law in the United States that regulates the use and disclosure of protected health information. HIPAA applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and entities that transmit health information in connection with certain healthcare operations. It also applies to healthcare providers who transmit health information in connection with certain healthcare operations. It does not apply to health maintenance organizations (HMOs), but does apply to health care fiduciaries. The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects the privacy of individuals’ health information. The HIPAA Security Rule protects individuals’ health information by requiring certain covered entities and business associates to protect the security of electronic health information.
How do the GDPR and HIPAA regulations overlap?
The GDPR and HIPAA regulations overlap in the following ways:
Consumer consent – Both GDPR and the HIPAA Privacy Rule give individuals the right to decide whether their personal information can be used.
Data minimization – Both GDPR and the HIPAA Privacy Rule call for organizations to collect only the amount of data necessary to achieve their stated purpose.
Data breach notification – Both GDPR and the HIPAA Privacy Rule require organizations to notify affected individuals when there is a breach of security that puts their data at risk.
Data transfer – Both GDPR and the HIPAA Privacy Rule allow organizations to transfer data outside the EU and the United States only to other organizations that comply with their regulations.
How are the GDPR and HIPAA regulations different?
The GDPR and HIPAA regulations differ in the following ways:
Penalties – The GDPR imposes greater penalties for non-compliance than the HIPAA Security Rule. Regarding GDPR, organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual global revenue or 20 million euros (whichever is greater). Regarding the HIPAA Security Rule, organizations can be fined up to $1,350 per violation.
Scope – The GDPR applies to all EU citizens, regardless of where the organization that manages their data is located. The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies only to organizations that are covered by HIPAA and that are conducting business in the United States.
Why Is Anonymized Health Data Important?
The GDPR and HIPAA regulations require organizations and medical facilities to protect personal data.
Although both regulations are similar, they differ in the way they define personal data and the type of data that needs to be protected. GDPR defines personal data as any information that can be used to identify a natural person, while HIPAA defines it as any information that can be used to identify a patient.
GDPR requires organizations to protect all personal data, while HIPAA only requires them to protect health information. Health information is any information that can be used to identify a patient and that is related to their health. This includes medical records, health insurance information, and any other information that can be used to make decisions about a person’s health.
Organizations must take steps to protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or destruction. They must also ensure that personal data is accurate and up to date. GDPR requires organizations to provide individuals with access to their personal data and the right to correct it if it is inaccurate. HIPAA does not require organizations to provide individuals with access to their health information, but they must allow patients to correct their medical records if they are inaccurate.
Improper handling of data can lead to legal ramifications and significant fines. Anonymizing data can protect the privacy of individuals while satisfying GDPR and HIPAA requirements and allowing the data to be used.
Anonymization for medical purposes
Medical data contains unique personal information such as names, phone numbers, addresses, and other details. Such information must be handled with care, so it cannot be used to identify an individual.
A patient may volunteer personal information to a doctor or other health provider if they feel they can trust them with their confidential data. On the other hand, there are many patients that do not wish to disclose such data because of various reasons. This is when anonymization comes in handy!
Anonymization is where data has been altered so that it no longer identifies a specific person. The usage of anonymization tools enables healthcare organizations to protect patient privacy by removing any personally identifiable information from their database.
The right tool for data anonymization and secure data sharing
If you are working for example on a research project, collecting and analyzing data can be a challenging task. You might have concerns about how the data will be used or shared, especially if it is sensitive in some way. Or you may need to share your data with collaborators who don’t have access to the same datasets.
Working on anonymized data allows you to use the data for further research, without the need for explicit agreements and organizational efforts with each change, such as a new partner joining the project or creating similar research, which could take advantage of the data already collected.
You can take advantage of the existing tools, such as ShareMedix, which makes it possible to easily anonymize the data and share it with the research partners.
Start sharing medical data the right way
ShareMedix by theBlue.ai