Protecting Privacy in the Healthcare Field: PII, PHI & PCI

Protecting Privacy in the Healthcare Field: PII, PHI & PCI

If you work in the healthcare industry, you’re likely familiar with key acronyms like PII, PHI, and PCI. PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information, PHI refers to Protected Health Information, and PCI represents Payment Card Industry. Healthcare professionals handle a wide range of private and sensitive data that is crucial for delivering quality care. This includes patient medical records, treatment plans, personal demographics, and insurance details. As electronic systems and connectivity become more prevalent, the accessibility and sharing of private data have increased, necessitating utmost diligence in safeguarding patient confidentiality.

Blue and silver stethoscope laying on a medical chart next to a blue pen.


Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is a crucial term that encompasses data capable of uniquely identifying an individual. While it finds relevance across various industries, the healthcare sector is particularly involved in managing a broad range of sensitive PII. This information holds significant value in delivering personalized and efficient care to patients. Examples of PII in healthcare include the patient’s name, address, phone number, medical record numbers, and other pertinent details. By comprehending and implementing robust safeguards for PII, healthcare professionals can uphold the privacy and security of patient information while ensuring the provision of high-quality care.

Protected Health Information (PHI), also known as Personal Health Information, is a term specific to the healthcare industry. It encompasses individually identifiable health information maintained or transmitted by healthcare providers. This includes sensitive data about a person’s physical or mental health, medical history, and treatment plans. Examples of PHI in healthcare include patient medical records, lab results, diagnoses, prescriptions, and insurance details. PHI pertains to any information that can identify an individual and their healthcare status. Safeguarding PHI ensures privacy and security while delivering quality care.

Payment Card Industry (PCI) refers to the established data security standard governed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). It ensures the secure handling of payment card information. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) sets guidelines and requirements for organizations involved in processing or transmitting credit card information. In the healthcare industry, PCI is relevant as healthcare organizations often handle payment transactions for services, insurance claims, and medical billing. While the primary focus of PCI compliance in healthcare is securing payment card data, healthcare providers must also adhere to PCI DSS requirements to protect sensitive financial information, prevent unauthorized access, and maintain patient trust.

An Overlap

The relationship between Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) is significant. All PHI falls under the category of PII, but not all PII qualifies as PHI. PHI specifically pertains to health information that can be linked to an individual, including medical conditions and healthcare services received.

PHI is a subset of PII as it focuses on individually identifiable health information. While sensitive data like educational and employment information falls under PII, it does not qualify as PHI. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides additional regulations and protections for PHI, emphasizing privacy and security in healthcare. There is an overlap between PCI and PII when it comes to payment card data, as cardholder information and transactions can identify individuals. Understanding these relationships ensures compliance, privacy, and security in the healthcare and payment card industries.

Data Breaches and Data Releases

Blue security warning on a black computer screen with a mouse clicking on it.

Healthcare providers and organizations are legally obligated to protect PII under various regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States. Violations of PII protection can result in severe penalties, repetitional damage, and compromised patient trust. Unfortunately, healthcare providers and workers can take all the proper steps set in place and your information can still be at risk for breaching. A healthcare data breach is any illegal access or disclosure of protected health information without proper authorization that compromises its security. The top cause of healthcare data breaches, which occur about every 60 hours, is due to malicious hackers, and the healthcare industry has the 4th largest amount of data breaches within the top five business sectors in America.

Apart from breaches, sensitive health information may need to be shared for various reasons. This can include mandatory disclosure with explicit patient authorization, addressing public health concerns, or legal requirements such as court orders or subpoenas. In unique cases like an unidentified individual passing away in a hospital, referred to as “John Doe,” it may be necessary to release certain personal information to locate and inform relatives. It is important to comprehend these situations to ensure compliance, privacy, and adherence to legal obligations in healthcare settings.

Redacting Private and Sensitive Data

To ensure privacy and security in hospitals, the redaction of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Payment Card Industry (PCI) data and Protected Health Information (PHI) holds utmost importance. Redaction involves selectively removing or obscuring identifiable details from healthcare-related documents, including medical records, payment transactions, videos, images, emails, and PDFs. Implementing robust redaction practices is crucial for hospitals to protect patient privacy, comply with regulatory requirements like HIPAA, and prevent unauthorized access or misuse of personal data. By prioritizing effective redaction techniques, hospitals can maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information, enhance compliance, and safeguard patient trust.

A comprehensive redaction software, like CaseGuard, is essential for efficiently redacting information across various assets, including videos, images, emails, and PDFs. It should offer special features to enhance the speed and accuracy of the redaction process, such as bulk redaction, AI capabilities (as shown in the video below), and the ability to generate reports based on redaction activities.

Video Thumbnail
Play Video

In the healthcare industry, an ideal redaction software would have the capability to automatically group sensitive data into PII categories, enabling effortless redaction of specific information like medical records with a single click. Investing in robust redaction software empowers healthcare organizations to streamline the redaction process, enhance accuracy, and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

In a world driven by technology, healthcare organizations must rely on dependable software solutions to effectively redact sensitive information. With the growing digitalization of medical records and the paramount importance of patient privacy, efficient and accurate redaction processes have become essential. By utilizing reliable and purpose-built software tools for redaction, healthcare providers can confidently protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information (PHI), Payment Card Industry (PCI) data, and other sensitive data. Investing in such software empowers healthcare organizations to maintain compliance, enhance privacy, and safeguard critical information.

Related Reads