Skip to main content
Home » Living With HIV & AIDS » Advancing Science While Protecting Personal Patient Data from Inappropriate Sharing
Living With HIV & AIDS

Advancing Science While Protecting Personal Patient Data from Inappropriate Sharing

AI and data governance play a crucial role in revolutionizing healthcare, from HIV treatment advancements to safeguarding patient privacy.

Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Ph.D.

President and Chief Executive Officer, The Joint Commission & Joint Commission International

During my career as a clinician, HIV has gone from a death sentence to a manageable chronic condition, thanks to notable advancements in science. It took 20 years to understand the binding site for HIV antiviral treatments that made progress possible. Yet, today, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), 6,000 potential new binding sites for medications can be identified within six months.

Data underpins the AI that will continue to drive advancements in HIV and many other treatments. The ascension of AI and machine learning in healthcare has further expanded the universe of potential uses to advance our knowledge and improve patient care, while simultaneously creating new complexities governing data usage. We must continue this progress and balance the need for guardrails to prevent possible negative effects with a safe space that makes continued healthcare innovation possible.

Regulating patient data safety

Standardized processes and good governance practices are necessary not only to protect patient privacy and data security, but also to ensure that algorithms — the foundation of AI and machine learning — are examined to prevent systematizing bias. No patient should ever have to worry that their health records might inadvertently or intentionally become public, but according to a 2022 American Medical Association study, 59% of patients are concerned with personal health information being used against them or their loved ones.

Until recently, no standard approach or statute existed within healthcare to regulate the use of de-identified data nor to validate its best-use practices. For this reason, The Joint Commission, the world’s oldest and largest healthcare accreditor of healthcare organizations, addressed this gap by introducing a voluntary Responsible Use of Health Data (RUHD) Certification for U.S. hospitals.

Providing peace of mind

The Responsible Use of Health Data Certification provides guidance and recognizes healthcare organizations navigating the appropriate sensitivities needed to safely use and transfer secondary data – the use of health data for purposes other than clinical care, such as quality and operations improvement, discovery or algorithm, and AI development. It aims to help healthcare organizations use data responsibly when developing new technologies and discovering new therapies benefitting all patients.

The certification validates to patients that a healthcare organization has policies and procedures in place to protect their health records. Hospitals achieving The Joint Commission’s certification are recognized publicly for establishing an objective and rigorous process for meeting the necessary requirements.

The Joint Commission’s aim is to create guardrails for the Responsible Use of Health Data Certification that are strong enough to prevent inappropriate use of secondary data, yet adaptable enough to utilize AI’s benefits to healthcare.  This perfect balance is imperative to simultaneously ensure patient privacy is secure while advancing disease-crushing innovation, since patients worry about confidentiality, but are still eager and willing to contribute anonymous data to help researchers discover much-needed cures.

Since living with HIV and other chronic conditions is stressful enough, The Joint Commission hopes that its Responsible Use of Health Data Certification helps patients feel some relief knowing that action is being taken to help move healthcare organizations closer to ensuring that confidential patient information remains private and that advancements based on their data are shared.

The Joint Commission knows there is a significant need for a learning health system, where the collective memory of healthcare teaches us what works and what doesn’t so that we can avoid harm and maximize benefits so that all patients, across all settings, receive the safest and highest quality of care. 

Next article