There are three different basic encryption methods, each with their own advantages:
- Hashing: Hashing creates a unique, fixed-length signature for a message or data set.
Each hash is unique to a specific message, so minor changes to that message would be easy to track. Once data is encrypted using hashing, it cannot be reversed or deciphered. Hashing, then, though not technically an encryption method as such, is still useful for proving data has not been tampered with.
- Symmetric methods: Symmetric encryption is also known as private-key cryptography, and is called so because the key used to encrypt and decrypt the message must remain secure, because anyone with access to it can decrypt the data. Using this method, a sender encrypts the data with one key, sends the data (the ciphertext) and then the receiver uses the key to decrypt the data.
- Asymmetric methods: Asymmetric encryption, or public-key cryptography, is different than the previous method because it uses two keys for encryption or decryption (it has the potential to be more secure as such). With this method, a public key is freely available to everyone and is used to encrypt messages, and a different, private key is used by the recipient to decrypt messages.
Any of these methods would likely prove sufficient for proper data security, and a quick search will reveal the multitude of solutions available for data encryption. Data encryption is a necessity (both for legal reasons and otherwise) when transmitting information like PHI, so no matter what method you choose, make sure you are doing everything you can to protect data.