Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows organizations to realize new levels of operational efficiency by automating complex processes at scale. Nowhere will this functionality be more transformative than in the increasingly overburdened healthcare sector.

AI systems enable healthcare providers to offer better patient care by freeing staff from high-volume, routine administrative processes. However, this inherent ability to process high volumes of patient data inevitably leads to an important challenge: patient privacy. While all industries must prioritize data security and user privacy, these concerns are uniquely important when dealing with data related to medical care. Fortunately, AI systems are designed to help mitigate these concerns.

Data Bodyguards

AI systems can take on the role of 24/7 digital bodyguards for enterprise-scale systems. Indeed, a survey of enterprise decision makers carried out by HfS Research (in partnership with IPsoft) found that a clear majority of respondents (59%) said they were pleased with the security benefits gained by implementing cognitive technology into their systems. “Improved security is an unanticipated benefit of cognitive technology projects,” the survey states. “Many cognitive tools have security and privacy in-built by design. We are now getting used to machine learning and AI providing threat intelligence, detection and response.”

On the front-end, AI can control access to information through authentication and other biometrics. (Click here to learn more how IPsoft partner Verbio, for example, is using voice biometrics to both authenticate and identify individual users.) Intelligent systems have also proven to be more effective in detecting would-be phishers than human customer service agents. (Click here to read how a leading online gaming company used Amelia to successfully identify and block phishing attempts.)

On the back-end, these systems can monitor all events in real-time for suspicious behavior and, depending on an organization’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), automatically address the situation or flag it for human workers to investigate further. For example, if a hospital’s AI system notices a spike in attempts to access certain patients’ data following an unrelated but high-profile hacking incident, the system could temporary freeze access to those accounts and alert security staff.

Everything Is Known

Another benefit of AI systems in healthcare is that every task is recorded and is part of a clear data trail. This rigorous transparency guarantees that there will be a record each time a user’s data is accessed. This provides far more accountability compared to keeping data in physical files or across multiple digital systems with various degrees of transparency. In the event that data is misused in any way, patients – or if necessary relevant authorities – will have a clear record of what happened and who was responsible.

Protecting Data at Rest or In-Transit

AI systems – particularly cognitive systems – depend on user data to provide enhanced services. This means that it is incumbent for system custodians to build in functionality that protects patient data at rest or in-transit. When it comes to machine learning and predictive analytics, full-encryption is largely impractical, however an approach called “differential privacy” could keep AI functioning while protecting patients by injecting noise or randomness to large databases which would make it difficult to identify any specific individual. Even if that data were ever to fall into the wrong hands, differential privacy adds an additional layer of security.

Talk to AI

Automated engagements are inherently more private since there are no humans involved, which might make them ideal for healthcare. Indeed, research has shown that people are more comfortable talking to AI interfaces in certain scenarios because machines are non-judgmental and will not purposefully misuse information. In instances where a patient may seek medical care for some kind of socially stigmatized condition, that person may feel more comfortable talking to a virtual agent than they do with another human.

The unfortunate truth is that humans sometimes do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. The good news is that machines are becoming more capable and have no inherent destructive streak (unless specifically programmed to have one). AI systems could very well be the ideal means for keeping patients’ most intimate details safe and secure.

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