Edge Computing Provides Security for EHR, Healthcare Applications

The following is a guest blog post by Eric Fischer is the Digital Marketing Specialist for Estone Technology.

As more and more practices, both small and large, move from traditional patient records to fully electronic health records, the advantages of cloud-based EHR systems are becoming more readily apparent. In a cloud-based EHR system, data is stored on an external server, usually owned and operated by a third-party company, reducing an individual practice’s investment. Setup is often limited to installing certain software, and subsequently, data can be accessed anywhere.

However, in the modern day of HIPAA rules and patient privacy regulations, sending all of your patient data to a third party service can be dangerous if not managed properly. Even worse, as more and more devices gain intelligence and connectivity, joining the Internet of Things, patient data is often sent as soon as it as gathered, without human input, creating backlogs of pointless data and additional windows for data theft or misuse.  Though cloud-based records systems should offer flawless security, it only takes one person at any level in data processing to be careless with their password, or one device affected with malware to render patient records totally insecure. In a recently reported story, a security expert identified a data breach caused when an employee plugged their eCigarette into their work computer’s USB port to charge. The eCigarette had been loaded with secret data harvesting software.

The IoT has made the problem more severe as it grows, as many simple, connected devices lack any sort of security measures whatsoever, and simply send gathered data on as they have been programmed to do, no matter how they were programmed to do so. It is shockingly simple for these devices to be compromised and misused. The benefits of patient data recorders that automatically send their data to EHR’s is obvious, but the danger is also quite clear.

Cloud-Based IoT systems automatically send much of requested patient data from sensors directly to third party companies, ripe for data theft as well as failure in a network outage. *Data from the Journal of Intensive and Critical Care.

Fortunately, there is a solution. As small, embedded chips and boards have become more and more powerful, the need to send all data to the cloud to be processed and stored has lessened. Today, the IoT is shifting rapidly towards a new model of computing – Edge Computing. In this new computing format, data from individual IoT devices like patient monitors and data recorders is processed by intelligent, embedded boards and devices at the edge of the local network. Once the processing has been completed, any relevant data can be encrypted and forwarded to the cloud for additional processing and storage.

This improves data security in a few very simple, fundamental ways – first of all, more data stays local. Everything from blood pressure to MRI scans can be processed locally by edge devices using machine learning techniques. Most of this data is, of course, irrelevant and can be discarded. But when the Edge Computing device identifies something important, it can forward that data to the cloud-based EHR system, ready for additional use.

Secondly, since these devices are more powerful, and managed locally, they’re easier to secure than other IoT devices, or third-party managed cloud devices. It’s possible to load embedded boards performing edge computing functions with modern operating systems and anti-malware programs that keep data secure. This barrier between your internal devices, and the digital world offers a layer of protection for your most sensitive patient data.

Developers of hospital networks and hospital IT managers, EHR software developers, and other healthcare information technology professionals can work with hardware designers and manufacturing firms to discuss Edge Computing solutions for themselves and their customers.

About Eric Fischer
Eric Fischer is the Digital Marketing Specialist for Estone Technology – a designer and manufacturer of OEM/ODM computer solutions for Medical and Rugged Industries. Our solutions include specialized Tablet and Panel PCs, Embedded Boards, and Industrial Computers. We offer solutions that are IEC-60601 certified, waterproof, and antimicrobial, specialized for hospital environments.