Best Security strategies for Protecting Patient Data

Protecting Patient Data

Protecting patient data and securing their private information has become a significant barrier to entry for a healthcare provider that’s contemplating the adoption of electronic health records (EHR). An EHR is an electronic version of a patient’s medical history that is maintained by the provider over time and includes clinical information relevant to the patient’s care under a healthcare provider such as problems, progress reports, demographics, past medical history, immunizations, etc.

The Need to Protect Patient Data

Unfortunately, healthcare records have become bestsellers on the Dark Web ranging from $250 to $1000 per record. Protected Health Information (PHI) is quickly becoming a lucrative market and it is getting the attention of global cyber-criminal syndicates. Slow detection of medical fraud is adding to its popularity. 2019 marked the year of a large healthcare breach involving theft of 20 million patients’ records from a medical collections agency. Such events have increased the need to tighten the security of PHI. Keeping the current legal regulations in mind, several prominent techniques and strategies can help in keeping patient health information in the workplace secure.

How to Protect Patient Health Information

The sensitive nature of the data contained within EHRs has prompted the need for security strategies and techniques that can tackle possible risks. The guidelines and protocols for protecting patient information have been introduced through HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed in 1996 and updated in 2005). HIPAA security measures cover three safeguard pillars in healthcare:

  • Administrative Safeguards
  • Physical Safeguards
  • Technical Safeguards

Let’s brief through each ground to understand the best security strategies of maintaining patient confidentiality in healthcare.

Administrative Safeguards

These requirements are not entirely physical or technical but can contain a piece of each. These security measures are in the form of practices, policies, and procedures in the healthcare facility to regularly check for areas of vulnerabilities and improve the security posture of the organization. Safeguards focus on the compliance of security policies such as: Conducting audits, checking reports, assigning a Chief Information Security Officer and designing disaster recovery management plans. All Business Associates of Covered Entities are required to have Business Associate Agreements in place protecting the security of patient PHI.

Physical Safeguards

Physical security techniques help in preventing unauthorized physical access to a patient’s protected health data. Did you know that breaches in physical safeguards are the second most common type of breaches in the healthcare industry? The intention of this control is similar to technical safeguard: to limit access to only authorized persons. Techniques include assigning security responsibility to each healthcare staff member, implementing and maintaining physical access controls, implementing RFIDs. Here are some other physical safeguards suggested by HIPAA:

  • Avoid conversations involving PHI in public or common areas such as hallways or elevators.
  • Keep documents containing PHI in locked cabinets or locked rooms when not in use.
  • During work hours, place written materials in secure areas that are not in view or easily accessed by unauthorized persons.
  • Do not leave materials containing PHI on desks or counters, in conference rooms, or in public areas.
  • Do not remove PHI in any form from the designated work site unless authorized to do so by management.
  • Never take photographs in patient care areas.
Technical Safeguards

These requirements cover all the security techniques that limit access to an electronic resource to authorized parties in order to safeguard information in the healthcare provider’s network. Any healthcare facility using an EHR system will collect, store and secure patient’s sensitive data that can be protected through role-based access control, attribute-based access control and identity-based access control. For instance, a nurse will have access to only those patients’ data that she is taking care of. A receptionist will only have access to administrative data. If the data has to be shared with multiple staff members, they can be given access but a log can be created that is periodically audited. Data stored on electronic devices can be further protected through a biometric system, data encryption, installing firewalls, entity authentication, and antivirus software.

All these measures may be difficult to implement, maintain and update regularly in a healthcare facility. The combined cost of each security measure can be unaffordable for some healthcare providers.

We understand the dire need to have a workable system that:

  • Protects patients’ data in compliance with HIPAA
  • Enables smooth collaboration in the healthcare provider’s team.
  • Is easy and affordable to implement.

This is where we are bridging the gap with Hucu!

Hucu is a HIPAA compliant messaging app that is designed specifically for the healthcare industry. Hucu’s practical functionality and features address the administrative, physical and technical security requirements. Hucu is built in accordance with all the Technical and Physical requirements of HIPAA and makes the Administrative requirements easier to implement. Hucu makes sure that patient data is exposed to healthcare professionals in order to provide quality care without unnecessary exposure to others. Hucu provides a Business Associate Agreement for each Covered Entity using Hucu and is committed to protecting all PHI.

One way Hucu protects ePHI is by storing/transporting it on storage devices that are appropriately controlled and managed. It is our policy to maintain NO ePHI on portable storage and only to allow customers to store ePHI in the AWS cloud based servers. 

In today’s digital era, it is essential for healthcare providers to use HIPAA compliant technology to safeguard PHI so that all technical security requirements are met by the tech partner. Hucu prides itself in joining the list of HIPAA compliant entities and helping healthcare providers offer better healthcare services to their customers.

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