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Toward Secure Distribution of Electronic Health Records: Quantitative feasibility study on secure E-mail systems for sharing patient records

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If the quality and efficiency of medical services are to be ensured, electronic health records (EHR) and EHR-supporting infrastructure must be prevalent. Many hospitals, however, have EHR systems for their internal use only, and the standardization process for the exchange of medical information is still in process. This standardization process addresses information security and is considering public key infrastructure (PKI) as one security measure, but PKI is rarely used by medical practioners because of its poor user-friendliness. Here we propose an effective use of the identitybased encryption (IBE) system as a security measure. This system enables us to send encrypted and signed messages without requiring the receiver to get a public key, and it enables us to deliver secured messages to ambiguous receivers like those to whom letters of reference are sent. We evaluated the feasibility of this technology by using the analytic hierarchy process, which is an effective analysis tool when selection and judgment depend on nonquantitative psychological factors, to analyze the results of an experiment in which medical workers used E-mail agents with and without PKI and IBE. We found that medical practioners and researchers avoid using PKI because of its poor user-friendliness and instead use IBE even though it is harder to install. We therefore think IBE would encourage medical institutions to share patient records.

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