Deidentification of PHI (Protected Health Information): A Tokenization & Redaction Approach
Deidentify PHI (Patient Data)
Deidentify PHI (Patient Data)
Much like personally identifiable information (PII) or credit card data, protected health information (PHI) is a category of sensitive data that requires careful handling. The emergence of tokenization technology provides an effective solution to safeguard this sensitive health data, which has led to a growing interest in understanding and implementing this approach. Here, we explore the process of PHI deidentification through tokenization and the reasons why it is essential for any healthcare entity handling PHI.
Protected Health Information, or PHI, is any information in a medical record that can be used to identify an individual and that was created, used, or disclosed while providing a health care service, such as a diagnosis or treatment. In the United States, PHI is guarded under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), including demographic information, medical histories, test results, and insurance information.
The challenge with PHI lies in the need to balance privacy and utility. While it is critical to protect patient privacy by deidentifying their health information, the deidentified data must still retain enough utility for essential tasks such as health research, quality assurance, and clinical studies. This challenge is amplified by the increasing volume and complexity of health data being collected, and the growing number of services that touch this data.
To address this challenge effectively, three techniques come into play - tokenization, redaction, and masking.
Let's explore how these techniques transform PHI handling across four broad use cases:
The collection of sensitive PHI is done via input fields that are part of an iFrame, hosted by the tokenization provider. The provider tokenizes the PHI and returns the tokens to the user interface application. Sensitive PHI never touches the business' server, significantly reducing the risk of exposure.
In the case of PHI, authorized users often need to view specific data. By employing a combination of tokenization and masking, these users can see relevant information without exposing the entire PHI. For instance, providers like Strac could use their UI components to show only masked tokenized PHI data, keeping the sensitive information secure.
To display patient data, use Strac's detokenizeTokens API or UX widget component that displays patient data.
When sending PHI to third-party partners, tokens representing PHI are used, with APIs such as Strac Interceptor API. Since tokens, not actual PHI, are being transmitted, the data remains protected even during transmission.
Analytics on PHI can be performed using tokens, enabling insights to be drawn from patient data without risking PHI exposure. Tokenization allows queries against sensitive data, such as string equality on dates of birth or gender, without revealing sensitive information.
Redaction is critical when healthcare entities need to share or publish documents containing PHI. Specific identifiers within the PHI are removed using redaction, ensuring the document no longer contains information traceable to the individual. Redacted PHI documents allow for safe sharing while preserving the document's overall utility.
Use Strac's redact APIs to redact any sensitive data from text or documents.
Strac will work with any database (Relational database or NoSQL Database) and can mask, tokenize or redact sensitive data in databases. Learn more about here: https://www.strac.io/integrations/postgres-data-masking
Checkout our API Docs at https://docs.strac.io to learn how you can protect sensitive PHI data.
In summary, the integration of tokenization, redaction, and masking offers a comprehensive solution for PHI deidentification. By employing these methods, healthcare entities can ensure the secure handling of PHI, reduce the risk of data breaches, ensure compliance with privacy regulations, and continue to perform essential tasks that require access to PHI. The rise of these techniques represents a crucial development in the secure and compliant handling of PHI in the healthcare industry.
To learn more about Strac's tokenization, redaction, and masking solutions, book a demo.