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Securing medical records using DRM

Securing medical records using DRM

In 2023, 136.1 million healthcare records were affected by data breaches, a 240% increase from 2022, when 56.6 million records were affected. With data breaches and cyber threats becoming increasingly common, securing sensitive information such as medical records is paramount. One effective way to safeguard these records when transmitted via email is through Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM offers a robust set of tools and technologies that ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and regulatory compliance of medical records.


What is DRM?

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a technology designed to control and protect digital content and information by managing access and usage rights. It ensures that only authorized individuals can access, use, or modify the protected content. 

DRM is widely used to safeguard various types of digital media, including music, videos, eBooks, and sensitive documents, such as medical records. By employing encryption, access controls, and activity monitoring, DRM prevents the unauthorized distribution and modification of digital assets, thus ensuring data security and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Learn more: How does digital rights management work?


How can DRM secure medical records?

DRM can enhance the security of medical records transmitted via email in several ways:


Access control

  • User authentication: DRM systems require users to authenticate themselves before accessing the protected medical records. This ensures that only authorized individuals can view or edit the records.
  • Permission management: DRM allows the sender to set specific permissions for each recipient, such as view-only, edit, print, or share. This ensures that the recipients can only perform actions that the sender deems appropriate.

Related: Access control systems in healthcare for comprehensive security



  • Data encryption: DRM encrypts the medical records during transmission, ensuring that the data is unreadable to unauthorized users if intercepted. This protects the records from eavesdropping and unauthorized access.

Usage monitoring

  • Activity tracking: DRM systems can monitor and log all activities related to the protected medical records, such as when and by whom the records were accessed. This creates an audit trail that can be used for compliance and forensic purposes.
  • Real-time alerts: If there are any unauthorized access attempts or suspicious activities, DRM can send real-time alerts to administrators, allowing for immediate action to prevent data breaches.

Revocation of access

  • Dynamic access revocation: DRM allows the sender to revoke access to the medical records even after they have been sent. This is particularly useful if the recipient's authorization changes or if a security breach is suspected.
  • Expiration: DRM can set expiration dates for access to the records, ensuring that recipients can no longer access the information after a certain period.

Data integrity

  • Tamper resistance: DRM ensures the integrity of medical records by preventing unauthorized modifications. Any changes made to the records can be tracked and reverted if necessary.
  • Digital signatures: DRM can use digital signatures to verify the authenticity and integrity of medical records, ensuring that the data has not been altered during transmission.


  • Regulatory compliance: DRM helps in meeting regulatory requirements such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by ensuring that medical records are transmitted securely and accessed only by authorized individuals.
  • Audit trails: The detailed logs and activity reports generated by DRM systems assist in demonstrating compliance with legal and regulatory standards during audits.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide


Implementing DRM in your healthcare organization

Implementing DRM in healthcare organizations requires careful planning and execution to ensure the protection of sensitive medical records. Here are some key tips for effectively implementing DRM:

Assess your needs

  • Identify sensitive data: Determine what types of medical records and sensitive information require DRM protection.
  • Regulatory compliance: Ensure that your DRM strategy aligns with relevant healthcare regulations, such as HIPAA.

Choose the right DRM solution

  • Vendor evaluation: Select a DRM solution that meets your specific needs in terms of security features, ease of use, and integration capabilities.
  • Scalability: Ensure the DRM system can scale with your organization’s growth and evolving security requirements.

Implement strong access controls

  • Role-based access: Define user roles and assign permissions based on job functions to ensure that only authorized personnel can access specific data.
  • Authentication: Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security for accessing DRM-protected information.

Encrypt data

  • Encryption: Ensure that all medical records are encrypted during transmission and storage to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Regularly update encryption protocols: Keep encryption methods up-to-date to protect against emerging threats.

See also: Software updates to prevent cyberattacks

Monitor and Audit Usage

  • Activity logging: Implement comprehensive logging to track who accesses, edits, or shares medical records.
  • Regular audits: Conduct periodic audits to ensure compliance with security policies and identify any unusual activities.

Provide training and support

  • Employee training: Educate staff about the importance of DRM and how to use the system effectively.
  • Ongoing support: Offer continuous support and updates to address any issues and keep the DRM system functioning optimally.

Establish clear policies

  • Data handling policies: Develop and enforce policies regarding the handling, sharing, and storage of medical records.
  • Incident response plan: Create a plan for responding to security breaches, including steps for revoking access and mitigating damage.

Test and evaluate

  • Regular testing: Conduct regular testing of the DRM system to ensure it functions correctly and securely.
  • Feedback loop: Gather feedback from users to identify any challenges and improve the DRM implementation.

Integration with existing systems

  • Seamless integration: Ensure the DRM solution integrates well with your existing electronic health records (EHR) systems and other healthcare IT infrastructure.
  • Interoperability: Verify that the DRM system supports interoperability with other systems to facilitate secure data exchange.

Stay informed on advances

  • Industry trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in DRM technology and healthcare cybersecurity.
  • Continuous improvement: Regularly update and improve your DRM strategy to adapt to new challenges and technological advancements.



How often should we review and update our DRM policies and systems?

Regularly review and update your DRM policies and system at least annually or whenever there are significant changes in regulations, technology, or your organization’s needs. Continuous improvement and adaptation to new challenges are key to maintaining robust security.


What are the common challenges in implementing DRM in healthcare, and how can they be addressed?

Common challenges include user resistance, integration difficulties, and staying current with threats. Address these by providing comprehensive training, choosing an integrable DRM solution, regularly updating the system and policies, and fostering a culture of security awareness.


What should we do if there is a suspected security breach involving DRM-protected data?

In the event of a suspected security breach, follow your incident response plan, which should include steps to:

  1. Identify and contain the breach.
  2. Revoke access to the compromised data.
  3. Notify relevant authorities and affected parties if required.
  4. Investigate the breach to determine its cause and impact.
  5. Implement measures to prevent future breaches.

See also

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