Audit-based Compliance Control (AC2) for EHR Systems

M.A.C. Dekker, Jeremy den Hartog, Sandro Etalle

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    Traditionally, medical data is stored and processed using paper-based files. Recently, medical facilities have started to store, access and exchange medical data in digital form. The drivers for this change are mainly demands for cost reduction, and higher quality of health care. The main concerns when dealing with medical data are availability and confidentiality. Unavailability (even temporary) of medical data is expensive. Physicians may not be able to diagnose patients correctly, or they may have to repeat exams, adding to the overall costs of health care. In extreme cases availability of medical data can even be a matter of life or death. On the other hand, confidentiality of medical data is also important. Legislation requires medical facilities to observe the privacy of the patients, and states that patients have a final say on whether or not their medical data can be processed or not. Moreover, if physicians, or their EHR systems, are not trusted by the patients, for instance because of frequent privacy breaches, then patients may refuse to submit (correct) information, complicating the work of the physicians greatly. In traditional data protection systems, confidentiality and availability are conflicting requirements. The more data protection methods are applied to shield data from outsiders the more likely it becomes that authorized persons will not get access to the data in time. Consider for example, a password verification service that is temporarily not available, an access pass that someone forgot to bring, and so on. In this report we discuss a novel approach to data protection, Audit-based Compliance Control (AC2), and we argue that it is particularly suited for application in EHR systems. In AC2, a-priori access control is minimized to the mere authentication of users and objects, and their basic authorizations. More complex security procedures, such as checking user compliance to policies, are performed a-posteriori by using a formal and automated auditing mechanism. To support our claim we discuss legislation concerning the processing of health records, and we formalize a scenario involving medical personnel and a basic EHR system to show how AC2 can be used in practice. This report is based on previous work (Dekker & Etalle 2006) where we assessed the applicability of a-posteriori access control in a health care scenario. A more technically detailed article about AC2 recently appeared in the IJIS journal, where we focussed however on collaborative work environments (Cederquist, Corin, Dekker, Etalle, & Hartog, 2007). In this report we first provide background and related work before explaining the principal components of the AC2 framework. Moreover we model a detailed EHR case study to show its operation in practice. We conclude by discussing how this framework meets current trends in healthcare and by highlighting the main advantages and drawbacks of using an a-posteriori access control mechanism as opposed to more traditional access control mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    PublisherCentre for Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT)
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    Publication series

    NameCTIT Technical Report Series
    PublisherCentre for Telematics and Information Technology, University of Twente
    ISSN (Print)1381-3625


    • EWI-10742
    • SCS-Cybersecurity
    • Electronic Health Records
    • Access Control
    • IR-64240
    • METIS-241766


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