Data Security: How HIPAA Rules Affect Your Organization

Every organization has to ensure that all of its data is stored securely and that any possibility of data leaks or information theft are minimized as much as possible. Healthcare providers must also ensure that they comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Here are some of the ways in which HIPAA rules can affect your practice and steps you can take to ensure you comply.

HIPAA Rules

The two fundamental components of HIPAA are the Privacy Rule and Security Rule. The key aspects of HIPAA’s Privacy Rule relate to who can have access to personal health information (PHI), how it is used and disclosed. Policies and procedures should be implemented to ensure that only the minimum information necessary is disclosed and that written patient authorization is obtained prior to their information being disclosed. Failing to follow the HIPAA Privacy Rule can lead to civil and even criminal penalties. The HIPAA Security Rule requires that all ePHI which is created, sent or received be kept confidential, that data integrity is maintained and that data is available when needed.

Safe Storage Of Electronic Records

Most patient healthcare information is now stored digitally, making it easier for clinical data to be access between providers. However, this data is still subject to the same HIPAA rules. It may include information about the patient’s medications, medical history and billing information. Crucially, this means that all electronic health records need to be stored securely and that adequate security measures need to be in place to prevent improper access.

Adequate Encryption

It is essential that safeguards are put in place to ensure that security threats and breaches are minimized.

One of the most important safeguards to implement is secure encryption of data. To ensure maximum security, it’s essential that you use software that encrypts the data when you back up health records. The same applies to any platforms you may use to transfer patient information with other healthcare professionals or patients themselves.

Prevention Of Data Breaches

Whenever anyone without authorization accesses personal health information, this is considered a data breach. This may be a hacker, a member of the team with malicious intent or just a curious employee. Organizations need to take steps to protect patient information from being improperly accessed, as far as they reasonably can, to prevent avoidable data breaches. Whenever a data breach is discovered, it is imperative that the organization provides a breach notification, as specified in by the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.

Safeguard Against Cyber-Attacks

Organizations also need to ensure that they have adequate safeguards in place to protect against ransomware and cyber-attacks. Ransomware attacks involve malicious software encrypting the data on a computer or network and denying access to the data until a ransom payment has been made.

Healthcare providers are particularly vulnerable to ransomware and cyber-attacks.  Most of these attacks aim to steal electronic healthcare data which can then be sold on. The best strategy to ensure you can recover from any sort of cyber-attack is to have offline backups. You also need to ensure that any data kept on the cloud is stored securely. You risk fines, damage to your reputation and even poor healthcare outcomes if you don’t have proper security in place.

Safeguarding Public Health

Whilst individual privacy must always be adhered to, there are instances in which PHI can be released en masse. These will be specific instances which impact on public safety. For example, any situation which requires disease or death to be identified, monitored and responded to. Other situations include terrorism, surveillance, outbreak investigation and research. You need to be clear about what information can be disseminated and used in each case.

Conclusion

In order to ensure that you and your business associates are complying with HIPAA and properly and securely protecting PHI, you need to minimize the risk of any health information becoming compromised, improperly disclosed or stolen and encrypted. Ensure that you have the latest security management initiatives in place in order to protect your digital platforms and ensure that patient information remains secure and uncompromised.

Beatrix Potter is a cybersecurity writer at Essay Services website.