Beyond HIPAA: transparency, trust, and privacy in the digital age

Updated on September 10, 2023

Most people assume that their healthcare data is protected by HIPAA but it’s not. Back in ‘96 when it was enacted, smart phones didn’t exist and the internet was in its infancy so there wasn’t much foresight when it came to safeguarding data. Fast forward to now and HIPAA’s limitations are glaringly evident with rampant data breaches in the industry (e.g. GoodRx and BetterHelp) eroding consumer and patient trust. 

Patients want complete control over their data

In fact, 95% of patients are concerned that their medical records could be stolen or leaked with 54% saying that there aren’t sufficient privacy/security protections in place. That said, 92% of consumers are interested in finding a way to have complete visibility and control over their personal data, which would fill in the gaps that HIPAA has left wide open. It comes down to the transformative potential of transparency, consent, and data minimization in rebuilding this trust. 

The reality is there isn’t much difference between being a patient or just a consumer when it comes to data privacy. Despite overall prevailing doubts, there is a silver lining: healthcare organizations have an opportunity to ensure any/all personal data stays safe and private while (re)building patient trust at the same time. Protecting patient data also transcends mere compliance—it is a beacon of trust that illuminates the path forward for both patients and providers. 

Three ways to win back patient trust

An excellent way for healthcare providers to frame this up starts with three key tenets:

  1. Be transparent—transparent data practices are the cornerstone of rebuilding patient trust. Healthcare organizations must meticulously curate the data they collect, retaining only what is absolutely necessary. By explicitly stating how the data will be utilized, stored, and the duration for which it will be retained, patients are empowered to make informed decisions. Transparent data privacy policies should go beyond legalese, using clear and accessible language that demystifies the intricate world of data management.
  2. Obtain explicit consent—building patient trust hinges on a direct and uncomplicated process of seeking explicit consent. Whether through digital interfaces or other touchpoints, the act of obtaining consent should be straightforward and easy to comprehend. By doing so, healthcare providers not only comply with regulatory requirements but also establish a foundation of respect for patient autonomy.
  3. Embrace data minimization—the principle of data minimization advocates for the collection and retention of only the essential information. Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and other sensitive data that do not warrant sharing should be promptly removed. Consider innovative approaches like white-labeling or anonymizing data, especially for purposes such as medical studies and trial research. This not only reduces the risk of data exposure but also contributes to a culture of responsible data stewardship.

The landscape of healthcare data privacy has undergone a seismic shift since the inception of HIPAA. As we navigate an era marked by rampant data breaches and heightened consumer concerns, healthcare organizations have a unique chance to emerge as leaders in data protection and patient trust restoration. 

By adopting transparency, seeking explicit permission, and judiciously using data, these organizations can bridge the gaps left by HIPAA, transforming data privacy into a foundation of patient-centered care. When adhering to these principles, the healthcare industry can reinvigorate patient trust, safeguard sensitive data, and pave the way for a future where data security and privacy are not just norms but inviolable rights. 

As the digital age evolves, this journey serves as a testament to the commitment of healthcare providers towards ensuring the sanctity of patient data while fostering a renewed sense of trust in the industry.

jesse redniss headshot
Jesse Redniss
CEO & Co-Founder at Qonsent

Jesse Redniss is CEO & Co-Founder of Qonsent, the first data privacy enablement and engagement platform built for consumers and brands. Redniss is an Emmy-nominated Media, Data, & Technology executive with 20+ years of data strategy, privacy expertise, multi-screen brand building, and innovative product development. Prior to Qonsent, he was the EVP of Data Strategy at WarnerMedia where he oversaw the development of WarnerMedia’s Innovation Lab, the WarnerMedia Investments portfolio, and also led the enterprise-wide data and privacy strategies. Redniss is also a Co-Founder of the strategic advisory and investment firm, BRAVE Ventures. Follow him on Twitter (@jesseredniss) and connect with him on LinkedIn.