AMC – PhD position: cybersecurity in acute stroke care

Keywords: healthcare, cybersecurity, acute stroke, cloud, encryption


Cybersecurity is becoming an important concern in a modern healthcare. On the one hand, sensitive information needs to be available to provide optimal treatment, but on the other, access to the data needs to be strictly controlled.  This duality has slowed down adoption of cloud solutions by healthcare organizations, as well as hampered data sharing between practitioners, organizations and researchers. Data encryption is a powerful instrument that can increase control of the owners upon their data, for example when storing data in the cloud or sharing with other parties. The owner can decide to whom the decryption key is given, and in this manner keep control on the data. Nevertheless, encryption is less adopted in current practice than expected. Moreover, once the data is decrypted, the owner typically loses control – and trust. The ASCLEPIOS project, funded by the Horizon 2020 program, will address this gap by using modern cryptography techniques to develop a cloud-based framework for health data secure and trustworthy exchange. The Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Location AMC, University of Amsterdam participates in ASCLEPIOS together with other 10 European partners

In this function you will represent the AMC in the ASCLEPIOS project. The task of the AMC in ASCLEPIOS is to bring the perspective of a leading academic hospital, formulating requirements and evaluating the solutions developed in the project. Benefits will be illustrated through the case of data collection and sharing in acute care of stroke patients, where time is critical for decision and treatment. Data needs to be shared with various practitioners even before the patient arrives at the hospital, still during the transport in an ambulance. Also, after patient discharge, data needs to be shared with researchers to improve prediction and treatment selection. Currently, data sharing is hampered in both scenarios due to insufficient security and trust. In this project we will investigate how data sharing could be enabled and facilitated with the new encryption solutions and cloud framework developed in the project. The AMC will develop and evaluate proof-of-concepts in collaboration with project partners and local organizations involved in stroke care.

You will design and implement stroke acute care demonstrators together with technicians, security experts, and medical professionals inside and outside the AMC. You will also participate in international and interdisciplinary project meetings and present results in international conferences. As a PhD student you will be registered at the AMC Graduate School program, which offers a large spectrum of courses and activities for development of skills and networking. You will also participate in internal activities of relevant departments at the AMC and external collaborators. This function offers much flexibility and autonomy in a multidisciplinary high-tech environment.

We ask

You are motivated and autonomous, and have (almost) completed a MSc in Medical Informatics, Computer Science and Engineering or related field. You are interested in improving healthcare through IT, with a particular eye for cybersecurity and privacy. You are innovative and organized, and can take good advantage of flexibility and freedom. Also, you can communicate well in English (oral and written) and appreciate working in a large multidisciplinary European project.

About the Organization

The Amsterdam University Medical Centers (UMC) has been recently formed by the merger of two top academic hospitals of the Free University and of the University of Amsterdam. The project will take place at the Location AMC, University of Amsterdam, which is one of the foremost research institutions in the Netherlands, as well as one of its largest hospitals. Over 7000 people work here to provide integrated patient care, fundamental and clinical scientific research, and teaching. The AMC complex houses the University Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine of University of Amsterdam. The AMC has selected research themes in which it aspires to excel including Cardiovascular Diseases and Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders. It also coordinates or participates in over 90 European funded projects in various programmes and actions including: H2020, FP7, COST Actions, ERC (17), Marie Curie Actions.

Three departments of the AMC will take part in the project. The department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics carries out scientific research and education for students of medical and biomedical sciences and medical informatics. The research focusses in revealing biological processes of disease, identification of risk factors, medical tests, etiology and handling of disease. Additionally, methodological research aims at the design of scientific studies, the analysis and reporting of results. The department of Biomedical engineering and Physics focuses on Biomedical Photonics, Cardiovascular Hemodynamics, Medical Imaging and Vascular Biophysics. The flow of blood in the human body is a common theme in these subjects. The main activities of our department are on teaching, research, and support of external research using our facilities. The Radiology department performs research and education related to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases through images. The Neuroradiology group is a leader in topics related to stroke, with participation in various national and international activities.

About the ASCLEPIOS project

The vision of ASCLEPIOS is to maximize and fortify the trust of users on cloud-based healthcare services by developing encryption mechanisms for protecting sensitive data. The core idea of the project is derived from two observations. The first is based on an extensive analysis of the market on currently available cloud-based health services that aim to preserve users’ privacy without sacrificing functionality. This study lead to the following observation: “Once data is placed on the cloud in an unencrypted form or encrypted with a key that is known to the cloud service provider, data privacy becomes an illusion”. The second observation is based on the consideration of the latest advancements in cryptography. More precisely, one of the saddest but at the same time most fascinating things about cryptography is how little cryptography we actually use. While researchers have developed many theoretical models that could enhance the security level of healthcare services, only a rudimentary set of techniques are currently in use. ASCLEPIOS is addressing these limitations by utilizing several modern cryptographic approaches to build a cloud-based eHealth framework that protects users’ privacy and prevents both internal and external attacks. ASCLEPIOS also offers the ability to users to verify the integrity of their medical devices prior using them while at the same time receiving certain guarantees about the trustworthiness of their cloud service provider. Furthermore, ASCLEPIOS offers a novel solution through which healthcare practitioners and medical researchers are able to calculate statistics on medical data in a privacy-preserving way. Finally, a list of activities with the aim to raise security awareness within the healthcare industry will be organized by the project. All these results will be showcased by three real-life near production quality demonstrators provided by ASCLEPIOS healthcare partners, involving three leading European hospitals.

The project will run for 3 years from the end of 2018.

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