All over the world, digital tools are increasingly being used to improve and streamline healthcare services. This does not only lead to positive results, but also creates opportunities for new types of threats regarding information security and privacy.
Information security and protection of privacy are some of the most important factors in the development of high-quality tools in the healthcare sector. If no attention is paid to these aspects, there is substantial risk that individuals may come to harm in healthcare situations. Leonardo Iwaya, PhD student in computer science at Karlstad University, explores ways of securing information and protecting privacy when using mobile applications in healthcare (mHealth).
“Mobile apps are for example used in developing countries to increase the coverage and the access to public healthcare,” says Leonardo Iwaya. “But many projects fail because issues related to data security and privacy cannot be successfully integrated in the systems.”
For instance, in Brazil, mHealth tools have been used by community health workers to improve patients’ treatment in poor and rural areas, strengthening the link between the society and the public health system. These patients often have limited possibilities to visit healthcare clinics and the project instead involved healthcare workers visiting patients at home. Smartphones are, for example, used to streamline the handling of journals. Information gathered during a visit is also used to analyze the impact of the conditions in the specific areas on people’s health, so that more prevention work can be done.
“My part in the project has been to look at how systems are designed and data is processed with respect to data protection and privacy,” says Leonardo Iwaya. “These issues have to be considered from the start if you want to develop digital healthcare systems in which information is properly secured and privacy is protected.”