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New 'Digital Masks' Could Protect Patient Privacy

Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D

The lack of a robust privacy protection regulation to safeguard the use of sensitive personal health information makes people frequently afraid to share their data out of concern that their sensitive information may be disclosed. The void created by the lack of a strong privacy protection policy may be to blame for data holders disclosing personally identifiable information without owners’ consent leaving them vulnerable to hyper-targeted online advertisements. In reality, it might have worse effects, such as allowing stalkers and other potentially harmful people to get their hands on people’s sensitive information.

However, the healthcare system relies upon, at times, people's highly sensitive information to make a clinical judgment. This turns the healthcare system into a personal information goldmine, which is prone to theft and security breaches.

To address this challenge, a team of scientists developed the digital mask - an artificial intelligence device that encrypts data and protects sensitive information. The digital mask, often called the DM, has been promoted as a way to safeguard patient privacy.

What is the Digital Mask?

The digital mask is based on real-time 3D reconstruction and deep learning which restricts access to unnecessary biometric information. It helps to protect patient privacy in the clinical setting and gives them more confidence to freely share their data.

To What Extent is Privacy Breach a Source of Concern to Patients?

Statistics show that a privacy breach is a source of concern for patients.

  • According to American Medical Association research, more than 92% of patients agree that privacy is a right and that their health information shouldn't be for sale.
  • Only 20% of the 1,000 patients questioned by Savvy Cooperative stated they were aware of the full range of organizations and people who had access to their data, and over 75% expressed concern about maintaining the privacy of their personal health information.
  • Nearly 93% of patients want health app developers to be open and honest about how their products use and disclose personal health data, while 94% of patients want organizations to be held legally liable for the use of their health data.
  • According to BakerHostetler, most lawsuits for a data breach are against the health sector. 23% against the healthcare industry, 17% against business and professional services, 15% against banking and insurance, 12% against education, and 10% against manufacturing.

Does Reconstructed Data Give a Similar Diagnosis Result as the Original Data?

In a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the digital mask, the testers performed ocular diagnostics on patients based on their original facial records and the software-reconstructed video. The result shows similarities in the two diagnoses. When compared to several existing proposed techniques of privacy protection like blurring facial details or cropping some identifiable features, this result was excellent and did not interfere with the doctor's diagnosis. However, the software's success in clinical trials indicates that if implemented on a large scale, it can be a useful tool for privacy protection.

What Are the Clinical Impacts of the Digital Mask?

The digital mask will revolutionize the healthcare system by:

  • Alleviating patients' concerns about privacy breaches makes them more confident in sharing their sensitive data.
  • Allowing correct diagnosis of the patient's condition using the reconstructed data unlike other means of hiding patients’ identity, such as cropping or blurring patients’ details.
  • Encrypting patients' medical records before it is sent to the cloud allows the physician and AI programs to use the information without the fear of a privacy breach.

Does Preserving Privacy Mean the Complete Removal of Identifying Qualities?

Patient privacy protection just means reducing the likelihood that health data will carry personally identifiable information; it does not imply that all patient identifying characteristics will be completely removed.

Check out the rxless privacy policy to be confident you understand how we protect your data.