protecting patient data in healthcare

How Doctors Can Transmit Patient Data Securely

protecting patient data in healthcare

Doctors must take precautions when sharing patient data. Learn more about how doctors should protect your PHI in this guest post from Heather Lomax. (Photo courtesy of MaxPixel)

The following guest post on protecting patient data was submitted by Heather Lomax.

Communication efforts in the last few years have greatly advanced between doctor and patient. Instead of having patients drive out for a visit or make drawn-out phone calls every time something needs to be discussed, some doctors’ offices have started to use online portals and email correspondence with patients. These options are extremely efficient, but they also place patients at a higher risk of medical identity theft. Therefore, special measurements need to be taken in safely transmitting patient data.

PHI Data and Email Encryption

First and foremost, patients need to make sure their devices are encrypted when they access medical data. Not operating on such a system places data at risk for theft with ease. Therefore, portals offering medical data need to be encrypted as well. Patients should be made aware that if their computers at home are not secure, then they place their data at risk there as well. Sending patients emails also requires another degree of encryption.

Different Types of Email

Several types of emails exist when it comes to safely transmitting data information with patients. For web-based email applications, doctors’ offices and patients alike need to use accounts with HTTPS encryption. This method is the only means by which web-based email is secure. The email is sent to a patient should also be encrypted using either PGP encryption methods or Symantec Digital IDs. In both of these aspects, each email comes with its encryption.

Use Cloud Services for Fax and Email

HIPAA regulations make specific claims about how data should be transmitted between office and patient. One of the methods to use for this communication relies on cloud services for both faxes and emails. These cloud services have their own firewalls and encryption procedures, and they make certain that data only goes to a specific location. More often than not, a specific receiver has to acknowledge that they accept a fax. A VPN access code can be used for this process.

Biometric Identification

As passwords become obsolete and even unsafe for healthcare data security, biometric identification is steadily rising in practice when it comes to accessing sensitive information. With passwords comes the potential of breaches in security, even with the most carefully crafted codes. However, with the use of fingerprint analysis, retina scans, and facial recognition software, it’s nearly impossible for identity fraud to take place since these characteristics cannot simply be imitated. And not only does it reduce the risk of billing fraud – it also prevents deadly medication errors, improves response rates to medical emergencies, and expedites health information exchange services (which will be discussed in the next section).

Use Three Different Forms of Health Info Exchange

When in doubt, doctors’ offices should use three, distinct methods of Health Information Exchange (HIE) with patients and other medical offices. The first type is directed change, where data can be sent and received securely through an electronic medium between providers and coordinated support care. The second option is a query-based exchange, which offers providers the opportunity to find and request information from patients and other providers when unplanned care takes place. Finally, doctors’ offices can use consumer mediated exchanges, a method which allows patients to have control over data and how it is used among different providers.

Conclusion

A great deal of options is available when it comes to transmitting electronic patient data. Rather than rely on flimsy means of protection, alternative options with tighter security like encrypted care, biometric identification, and HIE paths should be implemented instead. If your practice or hospital can introduce even one of these methods as part of their data transfer strategies, you’ll notice a great improvement in workplace efficiency as well as security for your patients.

Author bio:

Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Blaze Systems. She writes articles for a variety of medtech blogs, discussing solutions for optimizing healthcare data protection and clinical technology.

medical record safety

Peace of Mind: A Short Guide To Who Handles Your Private Medical Information

protecting protected health medical information in healthcare

Many patients are unaware of how many people have access to their sensitive medical information.

The following guest post on who handles Protected Health Information (PHI) was submitted by Brooke Chaplan.

From basic information such as your height and weight to the types of medications you are taking, your health history, diagnoses, billing information and more, your healthcare providers have access to an incredible amount of very personal information about you and others in your family. This is information that you do not want to fall into the wrong hands. This begs the question of who actually has access to all of the information in your medical file.

Well-Trained and Screened Candidates

In most healthcare offices, hospitals and other settings, the administrative or medical team that has access to your records is usually well-trained and thoroughly screened. These individuals typically must pass a thorough background check before being permitted to work in the office, and the office often has safeguards and high-tech protocols to prevent employees from mishandling or abusing the information that they gain access to. Some of the professionals with the most access are healthcare administrators that hold a degree in their field. Click here to see more about healthcare administration programs.

Your Health Insurance Company

If you are one of the many millions of Americans who have access to health insurance, your health insurance company may keep track of your medications, treatments, diagnoses and more. Health insurance professionals are often required to uphold strict standards of confidentiality in the same way your healthcare providers are. In addition, as is the case with hospitals and medical offices, health insurance companies usually go to great lengths to prevent employees from misusing or abusing the data that they come across over the course of their regular work day.

Potential Hackers

In 2015, as many as a third of all Americans were impacted by a security breach that involved their healthcare data or records. Information such as their address and Social Security information may have been passed on to hackers. Some hackers sell the data they obtain through their attacks, and others use it personally with malicious intent. For example, with your name, address, Social Security number and birth date, they can commit identity theft. Many medical offices and hospitals are aware of this and other potential risks to their patients, and they regularly take steps to continuously update and improve technology in an effort to reduce this risk for their patients.

Your private data should remain private at all times, but the unfortunate reality is that the system in place in the healthcare industry right now is not perfect. Patients should make inquiries to their healthcare providers to learn more about the steps a particular office or hospital is taking to keep their data from falling into the wrong hands.

Author bio:

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

 

4-Ways-Medical-Personnel-Can-Implement-Policy-into-Patient-Safety-Protocol

4 Ways Medical Personnel Can Implement Policy into Patient Safety Protocol

patient safety in healthcare

Ensuring patient safety has become a focal point for healthcare organizations. (Photo courtesy of pexels)

The following guest post on improving patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Rachelle Wilber.

The safety of patients in a medical facility is just as important as treating their condition. People must feel protected when visiting a hospital or clinic. Otherwise, they will be reluctant to seek medical care in times of need. Medical personnel have a unique perspective in terms of patient care, which can be helpful for improving safety measures. Here are four ways that doctors, nurses, and other staff can encourage necessary changes to patient safety protocols.

Record Risks & Vulnerabilities

Administrators prefer to work with facts and figures. They rely on this type of data to reveal problems and highlight successes. Those with concerns about patient safety should thoroughly document this issue, including any ideas for a solution. This information will have a much greater impact than a passionate speech.

Share Patient Concerns

Customer service is a core principle of the medical field. An important part of making someone feel safe is listening to them. Doctors and nurses can speak for their patients, and allow their fears to be heard. For example, many parents are concerned about childhood healthcare in this country. Medical facilities can share information about the importance of a balanced diet, or how to address mental and emotional issues.

Continuing Education

It may be difficult to influence certain policies and procedures when you are unfamiliar with how things work. Dealing with matters that affect the public can be extremely complicated. Medical personnel who are serious about having an impact should consider continuing their education. Earning a master’s in public administration can prepare you for the challenges of creating a safe and comfortable environment for the patients.

Consult the Legal Department

Sometimes, administrators are hesitant to make changes because they are worried about legal ramifications. They may fear that the end result leads to more problems than solutions. While gathering the details on a particular problem and how to address it, it would be helpful to consult the facility’s legal department. They can explain any laws involved and how to adhere to them. This will smooth things over with administration, so your ideas can be seriously considered.

Security and risk management are generally put in the hands of a facility’s administration. Along with other things, their job is to implement and maintain procedures for threats and emergency situations. However, patient protection is a unified effort. Healthcare providers spend more time with patients than anyone else in a facility. Their insight is a necessary component of any safety protocol.

Author bio:

Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

medical identity theft prevention

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce Risk

medical identity theft prevention

Medical identity theft can be just as damaging to hospitals as it is to patients. Learn more about what hospitals can do to protect themselves from falling victim to medical identity theft. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Hospitals are generally considered to be a place to seek refuge — a safe haven for both employees and patients alike. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Incidents of medical identity theft are becoming more and more common. Issues involving improper use and disposal of data, hacking, and theft result in not only adverse financial consequences but can also even have negative impacts on healthcare and personal well-being. Identity theft is something that every hospital needs to be aware of and prepared for — these steps can be helpful in preventing medical identity theft and ultimately reducing your hospital’s risk.

Reduce risk associated with personal patient information

The use and storage of patient’s social security numbers is the main source of vulnerability when it comes to identity theft. Data breaches and entry errors can mean that a patient’s information can fall into the wrong hands — compromising the safety of both the individual and the hospital itself. While much of the fraudulent use of patient information comes from stolen or leaked data, verbal or physical forms of sensitive patient information can also end up in the wrong hands. Hospital employees should take care to never discuss patient information in public areas, or with friends and families. In addition, physical forms including patient charts and records (even if they only contain the name of the patient) should be safely used and stored.

Ensure that secure methods are used in storage of patient health information

Every health organization should take necessary measures in order to ensure the safety and security of patient information. An investment in appropriate health IT may be costly up front, but it could end up providing endless savings — both financial, and otherwise — in the long run. Additionally, the use of a unique health safety identifier (UHSI) is a great measure to strengthen information and data security, with positive results extending all the way to the patient.

Avoid storing personal information of patients unless absolutely necessary

While many healthcare providers perceive that patient information — including social security numbers — must be stored for billing and insurance purposes, this simply isn’t the case. The storage of sensitive information (like social security numbers) isn’t always needed, and unnecessarily doing so may pose a risk for the patient and the hospital.

Dispose of patient information responsibly

Just as sensitive information should not be stored unless absolutely necessary, it is also imperative that patient information be disposed of in a responsible manner. Outdated or unused medical information, forms, and billing data should be shred or erased completely when no longer needed.

Assemble and utilize an advisory committee

In any healthcare setting, it is beneficial to have a diverse team of leaders that comes together to regularly review and assess security issues and vulnerabilities. By raising awareness and discussing perceived risks, hospital leaders can be well-informed when it comes to making decisions and implementing efforts to reduce risks and protect sensitive information.

how hospitals can prevent medical ID theft in healthcare

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Respond appropriately to issues and concerns

Not only can an advisory committee help prevent against identity theft, but the designated team of experts can be essential in addressing issues promptly and adequately. Utilization of an inventory system that tracks all processes and systems that contributed to the security breach can allow for the hospital to pinpoint the weaknesses and make necessary improvements. Once an issue is discovered, the advisory committee will be better prepared to — while looking at the data inventory — prioritize areas of concern and make adjustments that are needed.

Educate the patients themselves

As many hospitals strive to do the best they possibly can when it comes to securing patient information, actually sharing statistics and suggestions with the patients themselves can further improve the security of that information. Patients should be encouraged to keep their cards and information in a safe place and should be told to take caution when sharing sensitive details. Patient participation is crucial when it comes to combating identity theft and security tips and suggestions can be posted as signs throughout the hospital — or given to the patients in a brochure.

Medical identity theft is increasingly becoming a great threat to the safety of patients and health care providers. While there are many ways that patient information can end up in the wrong hands, there are fortunately many ways that both hospitals and patients can prevent this from happening. By working together and considering these tips, hospital staff members can ensure that the information of their patients can remain as secure as possible.

medical identity theft in healthcareAuthor bio: 

Joanna Sommer is the Senior Editor for InformedMag and is passionate about security and tech. She has been working in the home safety and security field for 5 years. Joanna loves to travel and enjoys going to hot yoga and Barre classes. She is dedicated to creating articles that both educate and help people make an informed purchasing decision.