A Closer Look at Patient Data Security: NABIDH Policies & Their Robust Approach to Privacy

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) provide the unmatched convenience of easy access, faster diagnosis, and better quality of care. Not only do they enable healthcare professionals to formulate more personalized treatment plans for patients, but they also promote better health outcomes. This convenience however doesn’t come free of risks. Unauthorized access/use of patient health information has consistently remained a subject of concern. While integrating EMR into your system can greatly enhance the capabilities of your healthcare facility, safeguarding patient health information is an additional responsibility that assumes paramount importance. This is the fundamental challenge that DHA’s NABIDH policies try to address. These policies have been formulated on a strong foundation of data privacy and security, and built on the principle of preserving patient trust and upholding the integrity of healthcare services. Here’s how:

NABIDH’s Carefully Crafted Privacy & Security Framework

The National Backbone for Integrated Dubai Health (NABIDH) is a healthcare system consisting of a comprehensive set of rules, standards, policies, and protocols that encompass the complete patient data lifecycle. This system has been designed to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the privacy and security of patient health information by means of a set of standards and practices that ensure health data remains within the protected realms of authorized healthcare facilities, systems, and networks. Let us now look at the set of diligently devised policies under NABIDH that guarantee patient data privacy and security while adopting the new system.  

NABIDH Policies Governing Data Collection & Storage

The responsibility of protecting the privacy of patient health data begins as early as data collection itself. NABIDH ensures, through its Consent and Access Control Policy, that patients are well aware of how their medical data is captured on the system, how it will be put to use, and who will have access to it. Patients also have complete control over whether or not their data is shared over the NABIDH system. Only after a patient gives their explicit consent, their data is made available for use or exchange over the NABIDH network. Similarly, as soon as the patient data is acquired, it enters a secure storage infrastructure that is well-shielded by security practices and state-of-the-art encryption to prevent unauthorized access or any form of tampering.

NABIDH Policies Controlling Patient Data Access

NABIDH recommends a set of stringent access control mechanisms that make patient data accessible only to authorized users. These access control recommendations are role-based and set on the principle that only those who are authorized and authenticated by the system using a pre-established identification mechanism can have access to specific sets of data relevant to their specific responsibilities. This is instrumental in ensuring that access to medical data is granted only to those whose roles and responsibilities necessitate it. NABIDH mandates this through its Identity Management Policy and Authentication and Authorization Policy. These policies ensure that advanced authentication methods are put in place to safeguard and manage protected health information and minimize the risk of data breach to the extent possible.   

NABIDH Policies Regulating Data Exchange/Sharing

Patient health data requires heightened security when shared or exchanged with others over the NABIDH network. To ensure this, NABIDH defines the standards and guidelines to be followed for transmitting data securely. The Interoperability and Data Exchange Standards and Technical and Operational Standards prescribed by NABIDH provide clear protocols to ensure free flow and exchange of medical information for timely and quality care while also preserving the integrity, and privacy of patient data.

NABIDH Policies Ensuring Safe Data Sharing for Research

Medical data serves purposes beyond patient care. Trends drawn from collective medical data can prove extremely valuable for medical research and public health initiatives. NABIDH policies make it possible to put such valuable insights to use by ensuring with its Anonymization Standards that patient health information is protected when shared for research purposes. Data anonymization techniques are recommended by NABIDH for enhanced privacy. Using these techniques, all identifiable information can be masked when health data is being shared. This helps in striking a delicate balance between data use for research and protecting patient privacy.

NABIDH Policies Governing Information Security

Information security is not a single person’s responsibility in any healthcare facility. All information technology users, and individuals who have access to health information over the NABIDH network have a role to play in maintaining the privacy of health records. NABIDH makes this possible through its comprehensive set of Information Security Standards which clearly define the rules and guidelines related to the security of information stored digitally at any point in the network. These standards ensure that all information technology users within the healthcare facility and its networks handle health information securely.

NABIDH Policies for Tracking & Maintaining Data Privacy & Security

Safeguarding patient health data is not a one-time task. It is an ongoing responsibility that can never be neglected. To ensure that every department of the healthcare facility continues to handle data securely, periodic audits are necessitated by NABIDH. NABIDH’s Audit Policy ensures that the security and confidentiality of patient data transmitted through NABIDH are monitored and tracked through privacy and security audits. The policy also clearly defines the procedures for conducting these audits. With these audits, NABIDH guarantees that patient data is handled in a manner that aligns with the highest privacy benchmarks. They are conducted on a regular basis to ensure sustained compliance and adherence to prescribed standards. They also help identify problem areas and possible threats that need to be addressed.

NABIDH Policies Defining Data Use

Not only does NABIDH define who can have access to medical data, but it also lists out the different uses that are allowed, and those that are not permitted. The Data Management and Quality Policy defines the primary and secondary use of data that includes acquiring, validating, storing, protecting, and processing medical information to facilitate accessibility, reliability, and timeliness for users. It ensures that NABIDH data is accessed strictly in accordance with relevant laws of the UAE and DHA in order to maintain data privacy, security, and legal compliance.

While NABIDH addresses the safety and security of patient data at various levels through these policies, it also defines the course of action to be taken in the event of a security incident or breach. The Incident Management and Breach Notification Policy describes the  immediate protocols and procedures to be followed in the event of a suspected security incident/breach. This helps curtail the impact of a breach and take immediate corrective action to minimize damage and prevent future incidents.  

Patient data security is a collective effort. To be successful in maintaining the confidentiality of patient health information, it is important to foster a culture of awareness about the criticality of data privacy in your healthcare facility. This calls for educating and training your staff about the best practices surrounding the use of medical data, and empowering them to become active participants in upholding patient data privacy. NABIDH’s approach to the security and privacy of patient data is comprehensive. It not only ensures confidentiality of sensitive medical information, but also fosters a feeling of well-being and trust that can come a long way in achieving better results in the healthcare ecosystem.  


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is patient data privacy important in healthcare?

Medical health records contain personal and sensitive health information. Exposure of such information can cause harm to the patient’s social life in a number of ways. It is therefore necessary to prevent this information from being accessed by unauthorized individuals who may use it for unethical purposes.

  1. How does NABIDH ensure patient data privacy?

NABIDH has formulated a comprehensive set of policies, rules, regulations, and standards such as the Information Security Standards, Data Exchange Policy, Authentication and Authorization Policy, etc. that ensure patient data on the NABIDH network is handled in a completely secure and confidential manner.

  1. How does NABIDH ensure continued protection of health data?

NABIDH’s Audit Policy ensures that the security and confidentiality of patient health information transmitted through the NABIDH network is continuously monitored and tracked through periodic privacy and security audits.

  1. What should be done in the event of a suspected breach or security incident?

If you suspect a security incident or the possibility of a breach, report it to the Information Security Officer in your healthcare facility immediately. Your healthcare facility is expected to report the incident/breach to NABIDH as well as the affected parties as soon as possible.

  1. Is all healthcare data on NABIDH anonymized?

No. Healthcare data is anonymized only when it is shared with outside agencies for research or other permitted secondary uses.