CONTRIBUTOR

Major advancements in health research are always good news, and big breakthroughs in the technology field relating to healthcare are no small part of that. 

The latest digital transformation story to unfold in the healthcare industry is one that allows privacy-enhanced data collaboration capabilities between healthcare organizations, data scientists and cryptographers.

What will this mean for the future of healthcare as a whole, versus the current processes used in the handling of sensitive healthcare data?

Big Data, Big Problems

Handling patient data is indeed highly sensitive, and for obvious reasons it is also highly restricted through government regulations. Current processes are labor-intensive and problematic to say the least. We are all aware of the fallout from data security breaches. Reuters recently reported on three different U.S.-based healthcare data breaches that came from multiple sources. Risks can be created via employees, third-party vendor tools as well as ever-present cybercriminals.

But despite the cyber risks, researchers and doctors still require multiple sources of confidential patient data to be readily available in order to continually provide updated research, particularly when it comes to rare diseases. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), approximately 25 to 30 million Americans are living with a rare disease. Real-world studies of valuable data ensure the effectiveness of vaccines and medication, such as was evident in the recent pandemic. 

In order to gain valuable and necessary insights on rare diseases and more, medical centers and healthcare organizations are required to team up and share data in order to build significant cohort studies. And this must be executed compliantly, at speed and with complete control of use-of-data.

“There is always a gap between promise and reality with big data. We need to be able to combine data from different centers and still respect the the privacy-related interests of individuals whose data we are using and preserving data ownership,” says Dr. Ravit Geva, deputy director of the oncology division and head of the clinical research and innovation unit at the Tel Aviv Medical Center (TLVMC). So what’s the solution?

Breakthrough in Technology

“Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately needed.” — Thomas Friedman, the American political commentator and New York Times columnist on globalization and technology.

A partnership has just been announced between Duality Technologies and TLVMC, enabling privacy-enhanced data technology (PET) for collaboration capabilities. This technology will empower organizations worldwide to maximize the value of their data, but without compromising on privacy or regulatory compliance.

Following a successful pilot run, a privacy-enhancing data collection tool is being adopted by the medical staff at TLVMC. How does it work? 

The Homomorphic Encryption toolkit enables users to collaborate on any encrypted data, but without ever decrypting it in the process. So, sensitive information is never revealed during the process and patient privacy is never put at risk.

Saving Time to Intervention, Treatment and Cure

This is an exciting and disruptive move that will digitally transform and revolutionize the whole healthcare industry as well as radically improve research speed through effective and secure data collaboration. It will make data collaboration around rare diseases much more cost-effective, and significantly improve time to intervention. And we know that time is of the essence, particularly with rare diseases and cancers where early intervention, treatment and cure are paramount and now can be all brought a step forward.  

Addressing the Challenge for Healthcare as a Whole

Rina Shainski, chairwoman and co-founder at Duality summarizes the benefits for healthcare as a whole:

“Deriving insights from valuable data through collaborations is at the heart of modern data-driven healthcare, but it is increasingly challenging due to globally-strengthening data privacy regulation. Agility of collaborative real-world evidence (RWE) projects in healthcare is becoming increasingly important – six to twelve months of legal agreements are not acceptable anymore in this accelerating data-driven world. RWE is also the best way to include diverse populations in drug research and understanding of drug effectiveness and adverse effects on diverse populations. The barrier to such research is data privacy and data confidentiality. Luckily, privacy-enhancing technologies are ready to be used to address the challenge while assuring that the analysis remains compliant with the data privacy regulations.”

The future of healthcare and privacy-enhancing data is changing. The adequate and secure keeping of patient records enhances the quality of treatment for all of us – because when confidentiality is breached, we sometimes react negatively and are reluctant to continue to impart personal information. Improving the process through digital transformation can only help to paint the whole picture for physicians and researchers alike, as well as build that all-important trust. New technology ensures we are moving toward a more effective, smarter healthcare industry as a whole.

 

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