Importance of Data Privacy in Healthcare

Maintaining Trust in a Doctor–Patient Relationship

It is vital for the healthcare professionals to build trust with their patients by keeping the patient’s data safeand protecting them from any kind of unauthorized disclosure. If a patient believes that the highly sensitive information (PII, name, age, date of birth, medical history, insurance claims, etc.) provided by them to their doctors is not protected, then the patient will be reluctant to provide their complete details for their own health and well-being, hence taking risksin their own lives [3].

Better Data Quality

A transparent system, where a patient can have full access to his own details, can provide higher quality and ultimately provides better healthcare for the patients.

In an electronic health system, the healthcare data are prone to errors. However, if a patient can access their personal records after the required authorization, it can help in increased transparency and better quality in healthcare data [19].

Improved Balance and Integrity in Current Industry Data Monopolies

In today’s world where data are considered as “gold,” industries misuse the confidential data of patients and outsource them to untrusted parties for personal profits and benefits. The complete picture of a patient’s PII and PHI, including finances, insurance and medical history, is prone to data breach. The data privacy laws are essential in seeking answers to questions such as:Who owns the complete picture of the user? What risks are associated with situations of massive data leaks [31]?

Protecting the Basic Human Rights

The UN declared the “right to privacy” as a basic human right, which gives users the right to have privacy for their critical information. Suitable action takes place in case the law is not practised and the privacy of an individual is harmed [22].

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule, patients have a number of rights including:

  • • The right to receive notice of the privacy practices of any healthcare provider
  • • The right to view their protected health information and receive a copy
  • • The right to request changes to their records to correct errors or add information
  • • The right to have a list of the parties to whom their protected healthcare information has been disclosed to
  • • The right to request confidential communication
  • • The right to complain

Who Is Responsible for Data Security?

To date, there is not unanimous consent on the sole stakeholder responsible for protecting the user’s data privacy.

Some organizations feel that it is the responsibility of each individual to protect his/her own sensitive data by themselves; while some feel that it is the responsibility of the organization that is collecting the user’s data. Others feel that the government should set appropriate standards for the organization for protecting users’ data and monitor their activities [32, 33].

The Gigya report showed the distribution of privacy responsibility in 2017 as shown in Figure 2.7.

In the year 2020, many big companies such as Google and Facebook do value their profitsmore than protecting their users’ privacy. They sell their customers’ sensitive data to advertisement companies for monetary gain. Although these companies give the users the right to decide to use or to not use their particular service by signing the “Terms and Conditions,” the users agree to the conditions without thoroughly going through them. This leads to the misuse or disclo- sureof personal information of the users and makes the service prone to security attacks [32].

In an effort to strengthen the process of protecting the users’ privacy, the EU introduced a piece of legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2019. It was an attempt to give control of data to the users rather than the

Responsibility distribution for protecting data privacy

FIGURE 2.7 Responsibility distribution for protecting data privacy.

companies. However, companies like Google and Facebook didn’t agree to follow it and faced billion-dollar fines.

Some of the key privacy and data protection requirements of the GDPR include:

  • • Requiring the consent of subjects for data processing
  • • Anonymizing collected data to protect privacy
  • • Providing data breach notifications
  • • Safely handling the transfer of data across borders
  • • Requiring certain companies to appoint a data protection officer to oversee GDPR compliance

In order to control the privacy breaches ofusers’ data, California, USA, also came up with a bill called the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) bill on January 1, 2020.

To date, the privacy issues still exist since no stringent controls are in place to protect users’ sensitive data, especially in the healthcare sector, and privacy continues to be an important domain for discussion and further research.

Comparison of Various Privacy Attacks over the Years and Possible Techniques to Contain Them

Table 2.1


Privacy Attacks and Techniques for Protecting Privacy




Tabrizchi et al. (2020) [1]

  • • Eavesdropping
  • • Masquerade attack
  • • Man-in-the-middle attack

Attribute-based file encryption mechanism from the cloud (ERFC)

Padmaja et al. (2019) [4]

  • • Data integrity loss
  • • Data segregation authentication
  • • Data breaches

Searchable encryption and proxy re-encryption method

Marwan et al. (2018)110]

• Unauthorized disclosure of information by intruders

Segmentation approach for healthcare images

Shomrani et al. (2018) [7]

• Encryption of “all” available data on the network

Proper segregation of data, for example,patients’ personal details and illness, to decrease encryption time and to encrypt only the sensitive data

Hamid et al. (2017)[19]

• Challenges faced while transporting data from utility to storage server in the cloud

Edge/fog computing is suggested which keeps the processing and storage of data closer to the user

Singh & Singh (2017)[15]

  • • User data privacy
  • • Audibility
  • • Access control

Blockchain technology is used to prepare a decentralized framework for the sharing of information

Li et al. (2016)[34]

  • • Loss of confidentiality
  • • Loss of integrity

Key-based auditing

Liang et al. (2016)[29]

  • • Loss of confidentiality
  • • No data minimization

Encryption using regular language

Zhang et al. (2016)[35]

• Loss of confidentiality

Multi keyword search

Anitha et al. (2014) [18]

  • • Loss of confidentiality
  • • Loss of isolation of computing resources in a public cloud

Authentication, authorization and auditing (AAA) are used and encryption of data is performed using Secure Socket Layer 3.0

Yu et al. (2010) [23]

• Loss of accessibility

Exception-based access control solution


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