NABIDH Policies 101: Demystifying the Information Security Standards

The global healthcare scenario has improved leaps and bounds in recent years- and information technology has been a major force driving significant improvements in healthcare around the world. Better accessibility, efficient treatment strategies, and more effective healthcare delivery have been made possible by information technology solutions. But with this immense power also comes the huge responsibility of protecting sensitive health records. Patient health information stored in electronic form may facilitate easy access for purposes of healthcare, but it also exposes health data to the risk of being compromised. To offset this risk, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has established the NABIDH policies that provide a complete information security framework to be adopted by healthcare facilities under the NABIDH Integration program.


Information Security Standards & Their Purpose in NABIDH Integration

NABIDH’s Information Security Standards have been formulated to ensure that all information systems and healthcare data remain secure and protected at all times. These standards list out the procedures and technical measures to be incorporated in a healthcare facility’s information security policy, and also sets out the minimum requirements and desired goals with regard to information security at different levels of operational complexity and risk. The standards aim to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of health information while also keeping threats at bay.

These standards provide the necessary guidelines for healthcare facilities to enhance the security of health information. Additionally, they facilitate the identification, assessment, management, and mitigation of threats. The fact that these standards are applicable to all stakeholders with access to NABIDH EMR, including patients themselves and their representatives, further emphasizes the responsibility of every individual to safeguard health data.

All IT users within a healthcare organization and its networks have to adhere to these Information security rules and guidelines. Compliance with these standards is not just mandatory but it also promotes the adoption of industry-specific best practices while dealing with sensitive health information. Here’s how:

  •   It helps establish a structured approach to risk assessment so that potential threats can be identified and addressed in a timely manner. The framework necessitates regular risk assessment making it possible to identify vulnerabilities proactively and to develop appropriate security measures to fix them. This further allows healthcare facilities to document any residual risks that could not be treated, ensuring accountability and enabling suitable risk mitigation planning in future.
  •   By categorizing the requirements into compliance levels, these standards provide a roadmap for healthcare facilities to achieve and maintain the essential security standards. This ensures that all healthcare providers adhere to at least the minimum requirements, before they join the NABIDH integration program.


What does the information security framework encompass?

This framework covers all aspects of information security leaving no room for oversight. With a standardized set of guidelines, it ensures that all security measures are implemented and maintained across the healthcare facility. The framework is divided into 17 key domains, each of which defines the objectives, requirements, and responsibilities of different users in a healthcare facility:


  1. Organization of Information Security- It is necessary to implement a structured framework for managing information security within the healthcare facility. This is the goal of this domain. It defines and segregates all roles, responsibilities, and duties. This ensures that all individuals are informed and made fully aware of their responsibilities concerning information security.
  1. Information Security Policies- This domain sets the direction for information security by aligning security policies with the overall objectives of the healthcare facility, and ensuring compliance with relevant rules and regulations and proactively preparing for emerging threats.
  1. Assets Management- Identifying, protecting, and classifying assets based on their sensitivity are crucial aspects of information security. This domain provides the necessary guidelines for secure storage, handling, and disposal of assets.
  1. Human Resource Security- This domain aims to ensure security requirements are incorporated into the healthcare facility’s HR policies, so that all roles, responsibilities, and duties related to information security are clearly defined, and staff are informed and made aware of the importance of safeguarding health information and the implications of not doing so.
  1. Physical & Environmental Security- Safeguarding physical as well as digital access to the facility’s information assets is the main objective of this domain. It addresses procedures to control access to sensitive data, and the means to protect health records against environmental threats, including natural disasters.
  1. Communications Security- Network security, and secure communication and information exchange between authorized individuals are key aspects of protecting NABIDH EMR. This domain aims to achieve this by ensuring that health data is properly encrypted so that it remains secure during transit.
  1. Operations Security- The operational security and recoverability of a healthcare facility’s applications and information processing systems has to be protected at all times. This domain aims to cover policies related to data backup, disaster response, and management of legacy systems so that data remains protected.
  1. Access Control- Preventing unauthorized access to sensitive health information is one of the primary goals of NABIDH policies. This domain defines how user controls must be managed using a ‘least privilege’ model, where access is restricted to the role requirement of a user. Furthermore, it lists out policies to ensure clear desk and screen, as well as strict password protection.
  1. System Acquisition, Development, and Maintenance- Secure system development and management are inherent requirements for information security. This domain covers policies to ensure all applications both within the healthcare facility, and external applications interacting with the facility, meet NABIDH recommended security standards.
  1. Information Security Incident Management- This domain addresses some of the vital requirements involving incident management, such as detecting, reporting and managing security incidents. It defines roles and responsibilities applicable in case of a security incident.
  1. Information Security Aspects of Business Continuity- This domain details the acceptable loss, recovery procedures, and triggers that warrant the activation of business continuity plans.
  1. Audit and Compliance- Compliance with security controls is necessary for every healthcare facility under the NABIDH integration program. This domain outlines the approach to be taken to conduct audits and compliance checks to ensure there is ongoing compliance with information security standards in the healthcare facility.  
  1. Cryptography- The policies under this domain are meant to guide the use of encryption in order to protect the confidentiality and integrity of health data.
  1. Supplier Relationship- It is crucial to govern information shared with third-party suppliers. The polices under this domain define the criteria for selecting suppliers, controlling their access to health data, assessing the risks, and governing the confidentiality agreements with these suppliers.
  1. Mobile Device Working- The policies under this domain address the security of information where employees use mobile devices, or work outside the premises of the healthcare facility. These policies cover conditions for device usage, risks, and measures for protection of sensitive information exchanged over mobile devices.
  1. Electronic Biomedical Devices- Electronic biomedical devices used in healthcare facilities also have to be protected. This domain covers the means to identify and secure biomedical devices, and to regulate their use.  
  1. Cloud Computing- This domain covers policies surrounding cloud computing to make sure that cloud service providers apply proper security controls. It ensures information is properly classified, regulates third-party dependencies, and ensures security in cloud contracts.


NABIDH policies are a comprehensive resource for healthcare providers maneuvering their facilities through the complex maze of health information security. There can be no lapses in safeguarding patient health information. Incorporating the NABIDH Information Security Standards is a fool-proof way to protect sensitive health data as well as to promote the responsibility of information protection among healthcare professionals, staff, and patients. These standards enable healthcare providers to reap the benefits of health information in electronic form without compromising its security, integrity, and confidentiality, and ensure that digital transformation remains a boon in healthcare.