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Implementation FAQ:Encryption and Security

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The use of encryption and security is discussed in the security committee, and email questions sent to that list get good answers. This page has been created to capture some of those answers to make them more accessible


In the Security TC we have assumed that encryption happens below the application layer, e.g., via IPSec or TLS, not within HL7 messages.

Any encryption to be done on only part of a message hauls along considerable technical baggage. That includes whole new classes of administrative & infrastructure messages to establish and maintain organizational trust, communicate shared secrets (keys), user/entity authentication, etc. It would require considerable net-new volunteerism to accomplish this work along with other things already on our agendas.

As a practical matter, we also should assume that people want to access healthcare data in a way that resembles the regime used for e-commerce or VPNs. When healthcare consumers access their healthcare information it's proper to assume that they'd use normal browser-based access, which limits the technical choices anyhow.

The Security TC does support the HL7 application-layer necessities, of course, such as the recently-balloted RBAC role vocabulary and the exchange of privacy-consent data.

(email from Glen Marshall 31/8/07)

note as well that Abstract Transport Specification (ATS has clearly stated that encryption "belongs" to the Messaging Infrastructure. I'd say that the answer to best practices or how to solve encryption problems shouldn't reside on HL7 normative pack. (from Miroslav Koncar)


See the separate page: