Strengthening API Security in the Digital Healthcare Landscape

Updated on March 7, 2024
Medicine doctor hand working with modern computer interface as medical network concept

In the pursuit of improved patient experiences, application programming interfaces (APIs) have emerged as indispensable tools for enhancing interoperability with electronic medical and health record solutions. APIs offer developers of healthcare applications the means to streamline workflows, improve care coordination, and ultimately elevate health outcomes. 

However, just like many other Internet-based services, APIs can pose significant risks to healthcare organizations when exploited by malicious entities. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, for instance, can overwhelm APIs with excessive requests, resulting in system downtime and the potential for data breaches. Additionally, data injection attacks have the potential to breach patient privacy and compromise data integrity. To effectively counter these risks, healthcare organizations must make API security a central focus. 

The Three “D”s of API Security 

Security considerations should be an integral part of the entire API lifecycle, spanning the design, development, and deployment phases. Let’s dive into the three “D”s of API security:

  1. Design: APIs must be meticulously architected with security and compliance in mind. This includes implementing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms, integrating advanced encryption to protect sensitive data at rest and in transit, and enable the continuous monitoring of the functioning of each API through logging/reporting on both expected and errant behavior. 
  2. Development: During the development phase, security principles should guide the coding process. Regular testing and audits should be carried out to identify and rectify vulnerabilities, ensuring each API remains resilient to potential threats.
  3. Deployment: After the development phase, APIs must be deployed securely following industry best practices and standards. Continuous monitoring and vulnerability testing is essential for promptly detecting and responding to security vulnerabilities.  

The Role of Trusted Cloud Solution Providers 

To mitigate data breaches, healthcare organizations must choose a trusted cloud solution provider that prioritizes security throughout the entire API lifecycle, from design to deployment. Utilizing APIs that leverage the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is also key to ensure secure communications.  

Another critical factor that distinguishes a trusted cloud solution provider from the crowd is its ability to meet industry mandated cybersecurity framework criteria that is audited by independent accredited third party cybersecurity professionals. Self-attestations or self-audits should be a red flag for any organization that processes confidential information. Completing external assessments and maintaining compliance certifications, such as HITRUST, proves a provider’s commitment to meeting stringent security requirements and protecting their customer’s data. 

Securing the Future of Digital Healthcare 

Overall, with the ability to improve data sharing, patient engagement, and quality of care, APIs will continue to shape the future of digital healthcare. Therefore, healthcare organizations must adopt a proactive approach that places security at the forefront.  

When selecting a trusted cloud provider for document exchange and data sharing, clinical teams should take third-party audits, compliance certifications, and defense-in-depth strategies into consideration. Additionally, choosing a cloud provider that adheres to the three “D”s of API security is critical in order to protect patient data and business-critical information while ultimately fostering patient trust and upholding the highest standards of care. 

Ryan Collins copy
Ryan Collins
Director of Support and Tech Op at etherFAX

As Director of Support and Tech Ops, Ryan Collins manages the day-to-day functions of the etherFAX support team. Ryan provides escalation assistance, advanced fax call analysis, and ensures that all concerns are handled with complete satisfaction. He also manages data center and infrastructure operations, carrier relationships, and plays an integral role in the technical onboarding of new partners and ISVs.

Previously, Ryan was a Product Specialist at GFI Software where he worked with engineering and product management teams to resolve critical product issues and make improvements for future releases. He attended the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.