Compliance Matters: AI in Privacy and Compliance, Does It Work in Healthcare?

A newsletter turned blog by Clearwater VP of Privacy and Compliance Services, Andrew Mahler

Welcome to Compliance Matters, a series designed to be your go-to source for bringing privacy and compliance insights to light, straight from my desk, Andrew Mahler. In this issue, I’m diving into the depths of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the realm of healthcare privacy and compliance.


AI is everywhere, and healthcare is no exception. Healthcare organizations are leveraging AI in various ways; for example, it’s playing a significant role in diagnosis and treatment recommendations utilizing patient data and medical imaging. Additionally, integrating AI functionalities into electronic health records (EHR) systems is streamlining documentation processes and alleviating administrative burdens. AI is even being used in some cases to address patient engagement and adherence, which has been a longstanding challenge in healthcare. As privacy, security, and/or compliance officers, it’s crucial that we don’t alienate our teams who are using—or wanting to use—AI. This might lead to individuals asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Instead, we should consider saying, “How can we do this ethically and legally?” rather than simply saying “No.”

Challenges and Responsibilities

But with great power comes great responsibility, right? AI in healthcare presents its fair share of challenges, especially concerning the sensitive nature of patient data. We’re tasked with safeguarding patient data, maintaining trust, and navigating a labyrinth of compliance and legal requirements.

How Do We Maintain Our Balance? Here Are Some Recommendations

  1. Understand and identify how AI is being used or intended to be used. Assess which AI systems or applications are currently in use or are desired and determine whether there is an internal drive to develop AI systems.
  1. Establish robust governance efforts that address key issues and react responsibly. This includes working across the organization to implement frameworks, policies, controls, and standards to ensure the effective and ethical deployment of AI in healthcare. Some organizations are forming AI Governance committees to oversee these efforts.
  1. Implement robust data security and privacy measures to protect patient data from new threats and vulnerabilities stemming from AI use. Team members responsible for compliance should thoroughly review contracts and agreements with vendors, business associates, and partners to understand the extent and manner of data usage for AI.
  1. Engage patients in discussions about the use of AI in their care, address their concerns, and ensure their privacy is protected. Building and maintaining patient trust is crucial for the ethical use of AI in healthcare.

Implementing AI the Right Way

Healthcare organizations must consider privacy, security, compliance, and legal issues before implementing AI solutions. This requires proactive communication across the organization and standardized, repeatable AI assessment processes. Policies should include regular risk analyses, access controls, encryption, proactive and reactive auditing and monitoring, penetration testing, and detailed assessments of vendors. We recommend healthcare organizations develop glossaries/taxonomies to define key terms (such as harm and bias); provide regular training to the workforce to foster a culture of AI awareness within the organization; and consider implementing committees or boards dedicated to reviewing risks related to AI.

Navigating the Law

Ah, everyone’s favorite topic. We must stay on top of ever-evolving privacy laws and regulations, both domestically and internationally. It’s a complex dance, but with the right partners and the right mindset, we can stay in step. Navigation should involve close collaboration with legal experts, such as general counsel and/or outside counsel, and close monitoring of applicable state, federal, and international laws, and regulations. It’s important to consider the source of the data, the destination(s) of the data, and the type of data.

Now, Let’s Talk About the Fun Stuff

The future of privacy-preserving AI in healthcare is full of possibilities. From early detection of diseases to real-time guidance for surgeons, the potential is vast. However, this must be approached with care to protect patients and the larger community.

As we journey into this AI-powered future, let’s remember to tread carefully, always putting patient privacy and trust front and center. With the right mix of innovation, collaboration, and common sense, we can harness the power of AI to transform healthcare for the better.

Until next time, stay curious!

Our team is ready to assist you in navigating the complexities of AI applications, ensuring that your organization remains compliant and secure in this dynamic landscape. We’re eager to help you harness the potential of AI to improve healthcare outcomes responsibly and ethically. Let’s schedule a call to discuss how we can support your journey toward innovative and compliant AI use.

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