If you followed the news throughout 2016, you likely caught wind of the seemingly never-ending data breaches. Healthcare organizations were disproportionately impacted by these data attacks. Healthcare organizations are responding in a proactive manner to prevent improper data access. There is an industry-wide push to enhance data protection strategies. The increased focus on data security will safeguard sensitive data and also maintain compliance with regulatory standards.
Why Data Security is so Important to the Healthcare Industry
Patient data is as private as it gets. This information reveals all sorts of personal details about just about everyone who has seen a doctor, been to a hospital or received medical treatment in any capacity. This highly sensitive data is safeguarded through healthcare organizations’ commitment to compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly referred to as“HIPAA”. These organizations also protect patient data with secure electronic health records as opposed to tangible paper copies that could be stolen with an in-person security breach.
The Government Gets Involved
Rewind the clock back to 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was passed into law. One of its components was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, better known as “HITECH”. This piece of legislation signified the federal government’s support of the healthcare industry’s transition from paper records to electronic health records. In fact, President Obama stood behind the push to make a full shift to the digitization of medical records as a core component of ARRA. Money and incentives were provided to healthcare organizations that made the transition and adhered to meaningful use policies.
The push for the digitization of medical records was centered on bolstering patient privacy. Furthermore, healthcare organizations were inclined to make the leap to records digitization as the failure to comply triggered financial penalties. Breaches would also tarnish their reputation as trustworthy healthcare providers. By 2015, penalties were applied to healthcare organizations that failed to store medical records in an electronic manner.
HIPAA Privacy and Security
HIPAA established the foundation for the protection of sensitive patient data with its highly detailed Privacy and Security Rules. These rules state that organizations that handle protected health information are required to implement security protocols. These measures must be present in physical form, by way of networks and also processes. The failure to follow these measures results in HIPAA non-compliance.
The standards for health data protection are defined by the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ HIPAA Privacy Rule. There is also a Security Rule designed to safeguard health data stored or transmitted in an electronic manner. This rule puts the Privacy Rule protections in operation through specific technical and non-technical protocols. The HHS HIPAA website states that the Security Rule mandates all HIPAA-covered organizations put the following safeguards in place for electronic patient health information:
- The data must be stored, accessed and transmitted in a confidential manner that maintains integrity.
- Protection must be provided to thwart all impermissible use or disclosure of the data that can be “reasonably anticipated”.
- Threats that are “reasonably anticipated” must be pinpointed and guarded against to maintain the data’s security.
- The organization must ensure full compliance by all employees.
- Organizations found in violation of these required safeguards will face financial penalties.
Protect Data in a HIPAA-Compliant Manner
The HHS mandates that all organizations implement security protocols to protect patient data. This includes restricting on-site access to electronic media and workstations. The aim is to prevent non-authorized individuals from accessing electronic patient health data. This is accomplished with safeguards like automatic log-off, hardware and software log tracking, data encryption, the use of idiosyncratic user IDs and audit reports. If your organization is flustered by these security challenges, don’t fret. The data security experts here at Cyber Security Solutions can help implement these digital safeguards.
Data protection must extend beyond the minimum requirements mandated by HIPAA. Such enhanced security strategies serve to safeguard patient health information but also to remain on good terms with patients and healthcare providers. Compliance with nuanced HITECH and HIPAA regulations requires myriad security strategies and the proper use of complex security solutions. These efforts will prove quite challenging if your organization doesn’t have extensive IT resources.
Cyber Security Solutions to the Rescue
We are experts in the realm of digital security. From data encryption to data loss prevention, access control, secure file sharing, antivirus protection, firewalls and beyond, we can help safeguard your sensitive information. Contact us today to learn more about our data protection solutions.