Cybera and University of Calgary Developing Secure Electronic Health Record Infrastructure

Alexis Milinusic wrote this guest post for Techvibes to explain what Cybera and The University of Calgary are up to!

If you have ever had a computer stolen, or a file mistakenly erased, then you understand that computers are not any more secure for storing private information than a backpack or a briefcase. Even password-protected documents can be violated and plain-text records made vulnerable, as was the case in May 2007, when four laptops containing confidential health information were stolen from a Capital Health office. Two and a half years later, when a patient signs a consent form stating whom may access his or her health data, there is still a level of risk associated with protecting that data. Considering the prevalence of electronic health records in Alberta, these holes in data security have far-reaching consequences, and pose a significant threat to electronic health data in Alberta today.

In response to this problem, Cybera has collaborated with researchers at the University of Calgary to develop a data encryption system that not only guarantees patients’ privacy, but also tailors the information accessed to the explicit requirements of researchers and healthcare practitioners. Called the Secure Electronic Health Record Infrastructure (SEHRI) pilot project, the resulting system will enable data from one patient to be used in a number of applications without divulging extraneous patient information. SEHRI uniquely applies the principles of Digital Rights Management to integrate encrypted security measures into Microsoft SharePoint software – the system used at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, AB to manage patient data.  While currently in the development stage, researchers at the University of Calgary’s Health Innovation, & Information Technology Centre (HiiTec) anticipate implementing the first version of the system into Foothills Hospital later this year. Cybera, an Alberta-based organization that drives innovation and investment in cyberinfrastructure technologies is a key project partner, providing both the necessary infrastructure and expertise to test SEHRI in a cloud environment. As province-wide access to secure electronic health data is the ultimate goal of the project, cyberinfrastructure is essential to the prevalence of SEHRI, furthering its adoption and use across Alberta. For more information on this project and its partners, visit Cybera.