Noah Rue

@nyrue24

Navigating Security Concerns With E-Signatures & Health Data

Management and HR teams may sometimes feel unfamiliar with the security of e-signatures for processes such as employee onboarding and business contracts. In addition, app developers often have HIPAA-compliant data security concerns related to healthcare providers’ handling of patient data.

Let’s take a look at how new digital security technology and protocols might affect your organization.

E-Signatures vs. Digital Signatures

For more common business applications, an effective digital signature not only secures sensitive data through encryption, but it also detects tampering efforts and strengthens signer trust. An e-signature is also a legal concept that provides a durable, long-lasting representation and capture of someone’s intent.

Though they may sound the same, an electronic signature (aka e-signature) and digital signature are not one and the same thing. While the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act defines an e-signature as an “electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to, or associated with, a contract or other record and adopted by a person with the intent to sign a record,” a digital signature refers to the encryption technology upon which electronic signatures are built.

Unfortunately, there are digital code signing certificates available via the dark web — for a price, that is. Email remains a vulnerable point of attack that is still utilized by hackers to gain access to private user data uploaded to the cloud.

However, electronic signatures used in banking and tax-related transactions incorporate a strong, complex network of security provisions that make e-signatures just as safe — or safer — than the real thing. Because of the number of biometric and secondary authentication measures utilized in backing up e-signatures, instances of hacking into documents with e-signatures is highly unlikely.

Healthcare Data Security

While a signature is not generally required for many healthcare transactions that disclose personal health information, signed authorizations for marketing or research purposes should be legally compliant and validate the identity of the user with their full knowledge and consent. For example, medical software applications must be HIPAA compliant, and guides like this one published by HIPAA Journal can help developers through the security protocols.

Because of the abundance of healthcare data that has become digitized and made available via multiple platforms, that availability is changing the way providers treat patients — as well as the way patients heal. For example, the development of telemedicine is allowing patients greater flexibility in seeing doctors from the comfort of their own home — as opposed to being forced to travel long distances or take time off from work.

The internet of things (IoT) has popularized mobile apps that can remotely configure medical devices, personalized medicine, and patient monitoring, as well. In addition, wearable health sensors, 3-D printers, liquid biopsies, and vocal biomarkers are introducing a new, futuristic implementation and accessibility to data that wasn’t available just 10 years ago.

Digital Citizenship

Ritesh Gujrati recently penned an article that lays out nine important elements of digital citizenship: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security. It is a matter of not only literacy but also etiquette, security, and rights to ensure that client and customers’ personal information remains private and protected via strong digital signatures that can protect the integrity and confidentiality of their e-signatures, as well as other personal information.

A foolproof, business-based digital signature will make clients and investment partners more likely to provide their e-signatures and go into business with you. If your company fails to safeguard all its customer data, however, they’re likely to go the way of Equifax or eBay: falling victim to security breaches due to a failure to update your security software to include the latest blockchain, cryptocurrency, malware-proof cybersecurity programs, and encryption programs available.

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With internet crime on the rise, it’s in your company’s best interest to adopt the most secure and encrypted document exchange and cybersecurity defenses available. What is your company doing to collect persuasive electronic evidence via digital signature technology?

Is your organization able to provide a snapshot of that captured evidence to all concerned business parties, in the event of a security breach? Share your experience in the comments section, below.

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