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A robust healthcare data protection program is the most essential requirement of a compliance program. However, protecting data in the healthcare industry is not easy. This is particularly because healthcare providers must take all necessary steps to balance the need for protecting patient privacy, on the one hand, and deliver proper patient care on the other. However, the challenge lies in meeting the strict regulatory requirements determined by HIPAA. This is because this task falls out of their area of specialty. Given that PHI or protected health information is a very sensitive data, it is imperative for providers to use and handle patient information with fool proof data protection needs else face huge penalties and even suspension of practice.

medical records

HIPAA doesn’t recommend the use of any technology to protect data. It leaves this to the discretion of the provider. On the contrary, HIPAA wants all providers to take all the necessary steps to ensure patient data is safe and secure, is accessible to only authorized persons, and is used only for legitimate reasons as mandated by the body. What this means is that providers must take a number of steps most of which is a mix and match of safety measures to keep their data safe. These measures cannot be a onetime step and must evolve with the changing perception of threat. In this article we talk about a few steps that healthcare providers must take at all costs to maintain the integrity of data.

Steps You Need to Take to Protect Healthcare Data Train & Educate Healthcare Staff

One of the biggest threats to healthcare data comes from human involvement. It can happen from negligence or error or even fraud. There healthcare employees need to be given adequate training on safeguarding healthcare data. Also, the training must be backed with regular updates on advanced ways in which data frauds is being committed and at the same time acquainting and training them on evolving IT solutions to keep data threats at bay.

Restrict Access to Data and Application

There can be no substitute to implementing proper and fool proof access restrictions. Access controls with the help of proper user authentication ensures that only authorized employees can access the restricted data. To make access restriction fool-proof there can be no substitute to multi-factor authentication consisting of password, fingerprints, eye scanning etc. A more advanced way of safeguarding is implementing face recognition technology.

Have Data Usage Controls

Protective data control is a proven and sound way to control data and is touted to be better than monitoring and access controls. It entails blocking and flagging data in real time. Healthcare organizations usually block specific actions such as unauthorized emails, web uploads, stopping access to external drives, or printing etc to implement this. However, to bring about a smooth implementation it is important to execute proper level of data classification.

Log and Monitor Use

Logging user access and data usage is a critical component of healthcare data protection. It keeps a detailed view of which users is accessing which database and applications, and from which devices and locations. These logs are a prerequisite for proper auditing which helps uncover weak spots so that you can take appropriate protective measures to plug them. In case of breach, it helps to identify precise entry points, the cause, and understand the damages.

A latest report on healthcare security says about 93% of healthcare providers are using cloud services and 63% plan to use multiple cloud vendors.  
HIPAA Compliance

Encrypt Data

Encryption is like putting information under lock and key. This should be done both when the data is at rest and in transit. Encryption makes it ideally impossible for attackers to break through the barriers to access information. The challenge here lies in knowing what methods of encryption and decryption are necessary, and to what extent it is acceptable and reasonable to stop unauthorized persons from gaining access to sensitive health data.

Secure Mobile Devices

It’s the age of mobile devices and healthcare professionals are using it to the hilt.  Be it the revenue manager or administrator or physician the who’s who of the industry every one depends on mobile devices to make their job easy and discharge responsibilities instantly. Therefore securing mobile devices is an equally big imperative. Practices must ensure all devices, settings, and configurations, data encryption, malware functions are in place, installing mobile security software etc.

Reduce Connected Device Risks

A lot many practices have adopted connected devices for ease of healthcare service delivery. Devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucose checking devices etc. may be connected to a network. This mandates adequate connected device security such as maintaining IoT devices on a separate network, using strong, multi-factor authentication, keeping security versions of all connected devices up-to-date and ensuring timely implementation of patches.

Common Healthcare Cyberattacks:  
–Data Breache
–DDoS Attacks
–Insider Threats
–Business Email Compromise and Fraud Scams  

Conduct Routine Risk Assessments

To ensure a safe IT environment, it’s essential to carry out a regular audit of IT networks and infrastructure.  With the help of regular risk assessments, it is possible to spot vulnerabilities in the security environment, gap in employee understanding of security requirements, security arrangement inadequacies at vendor end, and other issues. In the process it helps to mitigate potential risks and prevent costly data breaches and impacts such as reputation damage to fines imposed by regulatory agencies.

Back up Data to a Secure, Offsite Location

Healthcare practices are vulnerable to cyberattacks which can lead to data compromise. Besides, mishaps like a natural disaster can have disastrous consequences on a healthcare organization’s data center. To avert such possibility, it is extremely important to have a proper backing of your data. This calls for regular offsite data backups with end-to-end encryption, and other robust practices to for secure data backups. With offsite data backups disaster recovery in case of a disaster becomes a breeze.

  It is reported that patient data fetches as much as $363 in the black market, which is a lot more than data from other industries.  

Evaluate Compliance & Security System of Vendors

A detailed evaluation of business associates is a very important requirement for fortifying your security needs. This is because any loose ends at their end will put your business at stake. As there is frequent transmission of healthcare information between you and your partner for the purpose of enabling payments and processing back-office needs, you need to evaluate your partners IT security process and ensure it is properly aligned with yours. The onus to obtain satisfactory assurances from your partners, vendors, subcontractors, on protecting health information squarely rests on you.

While each of these best practices for healthcare information is aimed at keeping pace with the fast-changing security landscape, a lot depends on the expertise, knowledge, and agility of your IT service provider. Therefore, choosing the right healthcare IT service provider is critical for your business.

Who We Are and What Makes Us an Expert?

This article is brought to you by MedBillingExperts a healthcare BPO company with over 10 years of experience in providing a range of healthcare BPO services to hospitals in the US. One of the services we specialize in is healthcare IT solutions. Our service assists you to keep your IT infrastructure future-ready, provide round-the-clock security services, provide advanced analytical solutions, besides designing a range of custom software solutions for specific business needs. Please contact us now to know more about our solutions.


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