11 Easy to Implement Data Security Tips for Medical Practices – Part 2
Hackers target personal health information, which is why physician practices cannot afford to be complacent in data security protocols. In part 2 of the article, we complete the list of 11 tips for effective data security at your medical practice.
- Compliance with HIPAA
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires medical practices to protect confidential patient information and maintain its integrity and availability. There are severe repercussions, including penalties and fines, if there is a failure to maintain data confidentiality. HIPAA compliance has three approaches – technical, administrative and physical.
Practice employees must be trained in handling private patient information in line with HIPAA rules. An annual refresher course is a good idea to ensure everyone is up to speed. A number of websites offer affordable training. Staff members who fail to follow guidelines should be promptly reprimanded. This sets the tone for the clinic that complacency with regards to HIPAA compliance will not be tolerated. All vendors, such as those providing cloud computing or other IT services, should be HIPAA compliant.
- Access Control
It is important to limit access to computers at your medical practice. Private patient information is released on a need-to-know basis. Every employee does not need to have access to every application or every system. For example, accounting staff should not be privy to clinical information and clinical staff does not need to view billing statements. The security administrator at your practice can set up controls so that only authorized individuals can obtain access. It is important to terminate access immediately when an employee leaves the practice.
- Risk Analysis
To preempt a hack or cyberattack, medical practices must routinely undergo risk analysis to ensure best data security practices are being employed. For small practices with limited resources, this type of assessment is best outsourced. It does not make sense to have a data security consultant on the payroll. A risk analysis expert can identify potential loopholes and suggest solutions to fill the gaps. This is the most affordable way to address data vulnerabilities without disrupting staff schedules and workflow.
Your IT vendor can suggest best practices for data protection at medical practices. The best vendors stay updated on emerging threats to keep your organization protected.
- Natural Disasters
Your medical practice must be prepared for natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. On a smaller scale, a broken water pipe and flooding, theft, or a simple coffee spill on a PC can destroy important data. Disaster recovery measures prepare your practice to get back on its feet in the event of such a data loss. Planning for contingencies includes things such as obtaining new laptops and computers on short notice, who to call for water damage, and re-routing phone calls if the phone lines are down. A disaster recovery plan cannot limit the damage but it can make recovery and getting back to functionality faster and easier.
- Cloud Services
In-house services are fast becoming passé. Cloud computing is where the future is. By moving all applications to cloud services, your medical practice can obtain the benefits of a virtual data center without investing in the infrastructure. This offers both scale and functionality for a monthly fee.
Data security and disaster recovery are inbuilt features of cloud services, which in-house services typically do not include or they come at an additional cost. For a small practice, cloud computing is a cost-effective solution because services are offered on an as-needed basis for a monthly fee. The cloud provider owns the infrastructure, thus reducing overhead costs for your medical practice. In addition, this helps with budget planning as the monthly expenditure on IT becomes predictable. Finally, cloud computing gives your medical practice access to the best talent in IT problem-solving.
A proactive approach to data security at physician practices is essential in this day and age of cyberattacks, hacking, and ransomware. Proper practices in terms of data security can help you stay compliant with rules and regulations concerning confidential patient health information. Make data security a priority at your practice and rest easy that you are protected.