Data breaches, leaked records, and stolen sensitive information are all agonizing implications of poor management of private data. Mismanagement of patient data in the healthcare system comes with unique challenges and consequences. Unfortunately, most healthcare organizations find it difficult to manage data, especially because they generate patient information at a record-setting pace.
With the increasing amount of healthcare data being collected, so do patient data privacy and security risks. Data breach not only affects your reputation and compromises patient relationships but is also costly. Healthcare institutions can store patient data safely by following the following tips:
Conduct a Risk Analysis
You should begin by conducting a risk analysis to determine the vulnerability of patient data in your organization. A risk analysis evaluates the type of data storage systems in the organization and the data that needs the utmost protection. Not all organizational systems store sensitive data. Besides, each system requires different levels of safeguards.
Laying out a risk analysis helps healthcare organizations identify processes and safeguards that should be implemented in each system. Systems with highly sensitive patient data require the highest level of protection.
Educate Your Staff on the Tips for Protecting Patient Data
Providing continuous education to employees of healthcare organizations also improves data safety. Interestingly, more than 82% of data breaches involve the human element. Employees can expose sensitive information directly by ignoring data safety practices or indirectly by making mistakes that increase system vulnerabilities.
While HIPAA education is mandatory, healthcare institutions should provide continuous education to ensure that employees are well-versed in the best data storage and management practices. Organizations should have processes for new employees and a continuing education plan for other employees.
Empowering healthcare staff to identify external threats helps improve data safety. Employees can only become vigilant if they know the consequences of ignoring data safety practices. Organizations should inform employees of HIPAA penalties and other consequences of data breaches.
Ensure Safe Access for Third Parties
HIPAA guidelines for data protection aren’t restricted to healthcare organizations only. They also apply to third parties interacting with public health information, including bill processors, consultants, accounting firms, and medical transcriptionists. Healthcare providers should demonstrate a high level of control and visibility around third parties to ensure they remain compliant with HIPAA provisions.
Below are a few ways healthcare institutions can ensure third parties can access patient data safely:
- Ensure all business associates of healthcare organizations establish a Business Associate Agreement that complies with HIPAA guidelines
- Provide least privileged access rights to third parties. They should only access the information they need to complete their assigned tasks.
- Implement two-factor authentication
- Carry out due diligence according to HIPAA standards, such as monitoring third-party activities and regular risk assessments.
Encrypt Patient Data
Data encryption ensures that only authorized persons and intended recipients can access patient data. Encryption should be applied to information in storage and in transit to protect the integrity of messages, files, images, and other personal information.
Secure Mobile Devices
The adoption of mobile devices by healthcare providers and other sectors is on the rise. Mobile devices are widely used in the healthcare realm. For instance, physicians can use smartphones to access patient data. Administrative workers also use mobile devices to process insurance claims. Securing mobile devices involves a wide range of measures, such as:
- Micro-managing devices, configurations, and settings
- Using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication
- Encrypting all information
- Monitoring email attachments to prevent malware
- Educating employees on best practices for using mobile devices
- Implementing whitelisting policies that restrict applications that can be used on the mobile device
- Ensuring these devices use the latest operating systems
- Installing mobile security software
The Bottom Line
Healthcare organizations should remain vigilant to protect patient data. Apart from the tips above, healthcare players should back up patient data in secure locations, evaluate their security structure regularly, and create a solid crisis-response plan.