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
- Administrative Safeguards
- Physical Safeguards
- Technical 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 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.
- Protects patients’ data in compliance with HIPAA
- Enables smooth collaboration in the healthcare provider’s team.
- Is easy and affordable to implement.
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