Electronic Health Record (EHR) Encryption System For Federal Medical Center Makurdi, Benue State

Project and Seminar Material for Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Electronic Health Record (EHR) Encryption System For Federal Medical Center Makurdi, Benue State


In the 21st century, every aspect of life has become digitalized, virtually everything is been done through the use of computers. In the medical sector the record system has upgraded from contemporary paper file record system to the electronic record system which most times runs on the open internet a web where cyber crime and information theft is on the increase daily. It will be of great importance to protect the privacy of patience and protect sensitive medical electronic information at different unit in the federal hospital running an online hospital management or online hospital portal. Cryptography seems to be the best way where this sensitive information can be protected by combining cryptography and the logged in credentials of the logged in user. Scrambling and making them human unreadable until the right key combination for the logged in user is been used to decrypt where the key will be managed solely by the owner of the information.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Paper-based health records are rapidly becoming outdated. They are easily lost, are subject to wear and tear, are costly to handle, cannot be transferred electronically, may be difficult to interpret, and are inefficient. These fundamental drawbacks are driving a transition across the globe towards Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

Patience in the hospital are been diagnosed and treated, this diagnostics and treatment are been recorded for future purposes in the electronic health record system (EHR) of the hospital. This record should be protected at all cost from a third party.

This master’s thesis offers a practical solution using cryptography to protect these sensitive electronic records of patients and staff in Federal Medical Center (FMC) Makurdi, Benue State and gives them privacy control over who views their treatment and symptoms, and every other sensitive information in other units of the hospital.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Most people in the society, are been discriminated or been treated wrongly, in their various environment because of the nature of their ill health which was been exposed by the third party.

In the 21st century where most patient medical records are stored electronically and most medical institutions have their electronic health record system running on a network (local or internet), these network may not be fully secured for such sensitive medical information considering the increase rate of cyber crime and information theft.

It will be imperative to use a security measure where even if the third party get hold of these sensitive health record, the content especially the treatment and symptoms will be scrambled and unreadable. Using a cryptographic method to secure this patients electronic record will be best to achieve the desired result (i.e scrambled or unreadable) and will give the patient full privacy control over his/hers medical record with a given key and decided who views their record.

Federal Medical Center (FMC) Makurdi needs to have a system that will secure not just patients sensitive data but also other very important data about various units and their staff in the hospital.

1.3. Objectives of the Study

The general aims of this project work are to design a system that can:

  1. Authenticate and provide access to right users.
  2. Introduce a higher level of security (the use of a cryptographic “Secret Key”) where patients and medical staff are in charge of sensitive record in their unit rather than just the normal Login and Password.
  3. Add patient’s records and equally encrypt sensitive information about them.
  4. Append the diagnosis records and secure.
  5. Capture the basic data in the following basic unit of Federal Medical Center (FMC) Makurdi: card and record unit, consultant unit, pharmacy unit, laboratory unit, bursary /accounting unit and provide an area where patient can view their file.
  6. Protect sensitive information at the various unit using user login security and triple DES encryption method there by assigning unique decryption key for each user which works when there is a right login credential and secret key combination for that particular logged in person.
  7. Encrypting sensitive data by default using the logged in user’s secret key which is only known by the logged in user.
  8. Providing a flexible means of changing login password if it is been compromised.
  9. Providing a flexible means of allowing users to change their secret key, by providing a security question and answer which was provided when they created the account and the old key if key has been compromised.
  10. Providing a security emergency rule called “glass breaking rule” where only the admin staff can use patient id and his own secret key to get patient secret key to enable doctors see patient record.
  11. Finally, to design a system this will help to overcome the problem of stigmatization on patients living with a particular ailment.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The main focus of the project is the implementation of data encryption and decryption on patient’s privacy in E-records. The system will be secured in cases where only the authorized person has the needed cryptographic key to decipher the message. The system does not provide any security where an unauthorized user has knowledge of the encryption key.

It also offers a practical solution to the sharing of medical data where privacy and security are robust and where the records can be trusted as being unaltered and unchanged as they pass between providers in the following units in the hospital, these include:

  1. Card and record unit
  2. Consultant unit
  3. Pharmacy unit
  4. Laboratory unit
  5. Bursary /accounting unit

Federal Medical Center Makurdi, Benue State, will be used as case study for this work.

1.5 Significance of the Study

This project, allows patients have right over their secret key and allows them to give an authorization secret to any of the medical personnel through different communication channels (e.g. phone or as a paper code). This token allows them to access the patient’s E-record data while the patient does not need to be present at the time of access as he does not need to enter a PIN for authorization.

This approach provides more flexibility and retains the security and privacy properties of patient-controlled E-record encryption.

1.6 Limitations of the Study

This system applies to only hospitals where patient’s records are stored electronically. The project isn’t concern about building a full hospital management system but trying to demonstrate how encryption method of security can be combined with the normal logging in to protect sensitive information. Other cryptosystem weren’t used in this research due to its research nature and time, the algorithms used became limited. Also financial constraints and time, limited further research on this study.

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

At the end of this project, I have been able to introduce cryptography using the DES (Data Encryption Standard) in the Health sector for securing sensitive records from unauthorized users gaining or even having access to view sensitive records. The encryption system can be used to encrypt a simple text file, and then securely sent through a network to a recipient who has the needed cryptographic key for decryption.

As intended, even if the data been transferred becomes intercepted, the interceptor will not have the needed cryptographic key for decipherment.

5.2 Conclusion

In conclusion, it suffices to state that the security problems of today require most effective technique such as the encryption scheme. There are numerous encryption algorithms that can used to encrypt data from unauthorized access. Some of the encryption algorithms are RSA, Data Encryption Standard (DES), Triple-DES, AES (Advance Encryption Standard), International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA) etc. Each type of algorithm employs different and unique means to protect information from the prying eyes of intruders and to prevent them from unauthorized access to the information.

In addition, the security of today in the Health sector goes beyond simple Login and Password but requires rifling through and encrypting every byte of message that travels between networks. Hence, data encryption remains one of the most dynamic security measures in today’s data communication. With cryptography data is scrambled into unintelligible and unreadable form which can only make meaning if it is decrypted. Compromising is virtually impossible and where it occurs, it usually takes a long period of time and a lot of resources in form of man-hours, processor hours and finance.

The irony is that today, secrecy is not the key to the goodness of a cryptographic algorithm. Regardless of the mathematical theory behind an algorithm, the best algorithms are those that are well-known and well-documented because they are also well-tested and well-studied. In fact, time is the only true test of good cryptography; any cryptographic scheme that stays in use year after year is most likely a good one. The strength of cryptography lies in the choice and management of the keys.

The important thing about cryptography is that it is almost impossible to break the encryption algorithm without knowing the exact key value.

5.3 Recommendation

Cryptography (Triple DES) combined with login credential using owner ship of data is just my humble contribution to the range of various cryptography software available in today’s market, some of which are more powerful. As stated earlier in this project, the cryptosystem designed in this project can be used to secure patients data that is to be transmitted across a network or to be encrypted and stored within a network.

I recommend this software for encrypting patient’s private information’s and other sensitive information in the various units found in all standard hospitals and to the general Health sector as a whole.

It is also recommended that the medical operators (Doctors) should have good understanding of cryptography and cryptographic key management. Also, the organization should operate a steady network with fast internet access to enable online communication.

Once again, I will not fail to remind the patients about the need to keep the cryptographic key as secret as possible because in cases where unauthorized persons gain access to the key, the system becomes insecure and consequently, the aim of the system will be defeated, as the system does not offer such security.

Finally, I recommend that the medical operator be constantly trained to be abreast of the new trends in information technology.

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