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What is Encryption?

What is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of converting data into an indecipherable code to secure it from unauthorized access. As the linchpin of data security in information technology, encryption serves as a critical barrier that protects sensitive and confidential patient data in healthcare systems. 

As data breaches increase across all sectors, encryption becomes more than a best practice — it becomes a regulatory necessity, especially within electronic health record (EHR) and practice management systems. 

How Encryption Works

When considering encryption, think of it as a two-step process: encoding and decoding. Here’s a breakdown of how these processes work together in a healthcare IT system.

  • Encoding: First, you input data into your system, from patient records to financial information. This data, known as plaintext, passes through an encryption algorithm that jumbles it, making it impossible to read. The encrypted data, or ciphertext, can now be safely stored in your system or transmitted across networks, inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have the decryption key.

  • Decoding: To access encrypted data, system users must input the decryption key. When this key is entered, the ciphertext passes through a decryption algorithm and reverts to the original readable text.

One benefit of EHRs is that they typically include advanced cybersecurity features and encrypt data automatically. This automatic encryption ensures that only authorized users have access to the data.

Types of Encryption

Encryption comes in two types: symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption is like having a single key that locks and unlocks a door, meaning that the key you use to encode the data is the one you use to decode it. 

Asymmetric encryption involves a public key for encrypting data and a private key for unlocking it, akin to a mailbox at the post office. Anyone can insert letters through the publicly accessible slot, but only the owner with the private key can open the box to retrieve its contents. This asymmetry ensures secure communication even if the public key is widely distributed.

Why Data Encryption Is Crucial in Healthcare Systems

The benefits of encryption are multifaceted. It not only protects information integrity and confidentiality but helps healthcare organizations meet compliance standards, such as those under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 

Additionally, encryption fosters trust — a valuable currency in the healthcare industry that can lead to brand affinity and heightened patient engagement with healthcare services.

How TempDev Can Help You Make the Most of Encryption

TempDev’s NextGen consultants, developers, and trainers support NextGen EHR needs whether you’re looking to implement, switch, or upgrade your current system. We can help you better use encryption in your healthcare practice and cultivate a more robust internal cybersecurity culture.

Contact us here or call us at 888.TEMP.DEV to get started.


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