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Safeguarding Your Practice against Data Security Breaches

by | Jul 2, 2015 | Articles, Resources | 0 comments

Data Security BreachesProtecting the confidentiality and integrity of patient records is critical. However, as more medical practices and hospitals implement electronic health records, the frequency of security data breaches is increasing at an alarming rate. According to a recent CNN report, 90% of health care organizations were exposed to data security breaches and had their patient information stolen or exposed in 2012-2013 due to poor IT security measures. Last year, one report noted that bad healthcare outsourcing decisions were responsible for 63% of data breaches.

  • Outsourcing decision – Many healthcare providers outsource tasks such as medical billing and coding and medical transcription to take advantage of benefits in cost savings, labor accessibility, and turnaround time. The wrong choice of provider can have serious implications for data security.
  • Data Encryption and Key Management – Encryption is one of the strongest and most effective key in data protection. HIPAA doesn’t require data encryption and also doesn’t consider loss of encrypted data a breach. So in order to avoid potential penalties it is better to While HIPAA doesn’t require data to be encrypted, it also does not consider loss of encrypted data a breach. Therefore, it’s better to encrypt patient information to avoid potential penalties. Not only data but also the hardware such as servers, network end points, mobile and medical devices should also be protected are also vulnerable. All communication channels to the server containing healthcare records should be encrypted using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol to ensure data protection during the transit. Effective key management techniques must also be implemented along with encryption. The keys must be long, upgraded and changed frequently and should be generated using random key generators.
  • HIPAA Compliance – The health care records must comply with the HIPAA guidelines. If the healthcare providers, medical institutions etc are not compliant they will be fined. To avoid this effective privacy and security policies must be enforced for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of user data. Conduct a risk assessment of the IT systems in accordance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules that enables providers to review security policies, identify threats and uncover vulnerabilities within the system.
  • Educate Staffs – Information and education about every possible data breaches, viruses and insider threats must be provided to the employees. This enables them to place procedures in order to safeguard medical data. For example they should be aware of the possible malware infection that can be dangerous by clicking an untrustworthy link or downloading software from unknown sources.
  • Passwords – The first layer of protection against unauthorized access to data are passwords. Make sure that the passwords should be at least 8-characters long and should be a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. They should be changed every 30 to 60 days.
  • Subnet Wireless Network – Networks made available to public use should not expose private patient information. To ensure this it is better to create sub-networks dedicated to guest activity and for medical devices and applications that deals with sensitive patient information. Use separate, more secure subnets for business applications especially involved with credit card transactions and those dealing with Protected Health Information (PHI).
  • Control to Access – Organizations must implement strong access control methods to comply with HIPAA rules and regulations. Those methods can be included as a part of the operating system or built into an application. The main thing is that access to sensitive data should be provided on a need to know basis only. Strict policies and procedures must be adopted in place to support the access control practices.

Data breaches threaten not only a practice’s financial stability, but also its reputation. While outsourcing the administrative tasks to a medical outsourcing company make sure that it offers HIPAA compliant medical billing and coding services with strict security measures. The professional employees who are well trained in HIPAA rules provide services such as password protection and encryption for PHI during its storage and transmission. They also ensure safeguard measures such as thorough checking of employees, and restrictions on bringing in electronic devices. They also offer medical transcription services using advanced technological resources to protect the security and integrity of protected information according to HIPAA guidelines.