QR code based patient data protection in ECG steganography

  • Ponnambalam Mathivanan
  • Sam Edward Jero
  • Palaniappan Ramu
  • Athi Balaji Ganesh
Technical Paper


Connected health enables patient centric interventions resulting in better healthcare and hence better living. In order to accomplish this, bio-signals, medical and diagnosis information are shared and accessed by multiple actors and it is important to protect the privacy of patient data. Steganography is widely used to protect patient data by hiding it in the medical information. Current work investigates ECG steganography using Discrete Wavelet Transform (DWT) and Quick Response (QR) code. Steganography deteriorates the ECG signal and it is important to minimize this deterioration to preserve diagnosability. 1D ECG signal is converted to 2D ECG image and decomposed into sub-bands by subjecting it to DWT. The novelty of the proposed approach lies in converting the patient data into QR code and using it as watermark in ECG steganography. The QR code is embedded in the 2D image using additive quantization scheme. The performance of proposed method is measured using Peak Signal to Noise Ratio, Percentage Residual Difference and Kullback–Leibler distance. These metrics are used as a measure of imperceptibility while the data loss during retrieval is measured by Bit Retrieval Rate. The proposed method is demonstrated on normal ECG signals obtained from MIT-BIH database for different QR code versions. Metrics reveal that imperceptibility decreased for increasing patient data size and increasing scaling factors. Metrics were independent of the sub-band and the proposed method allows reliable patient data protection with full retrieval ability.


ECG steganography Discrete wavelet transform Quick response code Additive quantization Similarity metrics Bit retrieval rate 



A. Balaji Ganesh acknowledges the financial support of Department of Science and Technology under Technology Intervention for Elderly (TIE) scheme (No. SSD/TISN/047/2011-TIE Dt. 08.05.2014) to Velammal Engineering College, Chennai. Part of this research work was supported by this financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors, P. Mathivanan, Edward jero, Palaniappan Ramu and A. Balaji Ganesh declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies involving human participants and animal as subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electronics and Communication EngineeringVelammal Engineering CollegeChennaiIndia
  2. 2.Department of Engineering DesignIndian Institute of Technology MadrasChennaiIndia
  3. 3.Electronic System Design Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Electronics EngineeringVelammal Engineering CollegeChennaiIndia

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