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Washington: What if your heartbeat can safeguard your electronic health records in the near future? Researchers from Binghamton University believe so and have used the heart’s electrical pattern as an encryption key for electronic records.

The cost and complexity of traditional encryption solutions prevent them being directly applied to telemedicine or mobile health care.

“Those systems are gradually replacing clinic-centred health care, and we wanted to find a unique solution to protect sensitive personal health data with something simple, available and cost-effective,” said Zhanpeng Jin, assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

Binghamton researchers encrypted patient data using a person’s unique electrocardiograph (ECG) as the key to lock and unlock the files.

“The ECG signal is one of the most important and common physiological parameters collected and analysed to understand a patient’s’ health,” said Jin.

“While ECG signals are collected for clinical diagnosis and transmitted through networks to electronic health records, we strategically reused the ECG signals for the data encryption,” Jin added.

The identification scheme is a combination of previous work by Jin using a person’s unique brainprint instead of traditional passwords for access to computers and buildings combined with cyber-security work.

“This research will be very helpful and significant for next-generation secure, personalised health care,” Jin noted.

Since an ECG may change due to age, illness or injury, researchers are currently working out ways to incorporate those variables.

Through this strategy, the security and privacy can be enhanced while minimum cost will be added, the researchers told the gathering at the IEEE Global Communications Conference in Washington.