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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.

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.

 

patient data integrity and patient safety in healthcare

The Importance of Maintaining Patient Data Integrity

patient data integrity and patient safety in healthcare

Patient data integrity is important to maintain in healthcare. Learn more about how to protect it in the evolving world of digital healthcare.

The following guest post on patient data integrity in healthcare was submitted by Gabriel Tedde Cabot.

While all physicians, care providers and practices understand the importance of keeping accurate files and records for maintaining patient data integrity, the unique challenges and concerns of a digital file system may pose a greater risk than many practitioners might realize. From the struggle to keep patient records coherent and to maintain unified files across multiple applications and programs to the issues that may be caused by a data breach, today’s practices would be wise to assess the effectiveness of their records and data processes. Loss of data integrity may result in any number of potentially serious consequences, ranging from HIPPA violations to compromised patient care.

Creating and Maintaining the Right Digital Infrastructure

The first step towards ensuring digital information can be created, stored and accessed with greater accuracy is also one of the most important. Creating and maintaining the right digital infrastructure can streamline all processes that may involve patient records and ensure that inconsistencies within a file system are less likely to occur. Applications that can be linked more easily and databases that provide cross-platform support are often crucial assets for reducing errors, oversights and optimizing the efficiency of staff and associates.

The Importance of Staff and Employee Training

Having the right digital working environment is only one step in the process for ensuring more effective and accurate record-keeping, one that may be of little practical benefit when employees are not properly trained. Properly training all employees who access or use database systems, patient records and similar applications can help to minimize problems caused by user error. Assessing the current skill level, understanding and overall computer literacy of existing staff can also be quite helpful in identifying any areas that may require attention or improvement.

Failing to provide ongoing training for their staff is a mistake common to both small practices and larger facilities. Updated software, the addition of new applications and changes to the daily operational process of a clinic, practice or healthcare facility often entails the need to train and educate employees who may not yet be comfortable or even familiar with new systems or tasks. Ongoing training also provides a chance for associates to brush up on any skills or concepts that may have gone unused for too long.

Performing Periodic Assessments or Audits to Ensure Accuracy

Quality assurance can go a long way, both towards ensuring that established resources and operational processes are being utilized correctly and for identifying smaller issues before they have a chance to grow into larger and more serious problems. Assessing the accuracy of past records and ensuring that patient data integrity is being maintained effectively is not a concern that should be left to chance. Further assessments should also be performed whenever new operational policies go into effect or when changes are made to the software, systems and applications used by employees.
 
Protecting Patient Information in the Digital Age

From instituting a more effective password policy to utilizing secure virtual data rooms, there are numerous ways for organisations to ensure all patient data and information is able to be kept safe and secure. Damage caused by unauthorized access to data, files and electronic information may be considerable and practitioners who fail to make online security a priority may be placing themselves and their patients at greater risk of breach or other security issue. Malware or unauthorized users who are able to gain access to electronic records may result in the loss of vital data or files and records that no longer be considered secure.

While even basic measures to enhance digital security can make a considerable difference, more effective may be achieved by organisations who elect to make use of the right resources. Contracting with third-party IT department or security specialist may provide a more cost effective solution for smaller practices that lack the financial resources needed to expand their staff. Investing in secure virtual data rooms used to store and distribute information in a safer manner can also ensure that medical organisations are not placing patient data or information at greater risk. Finding and selecting the services, resources and solutions that make it possible to reduce or even eliminate many of the most common and costly digital security risks is always a worthwhile undertaking.

Staying Up to Date With Changing Technology and Emerging Trends

With new applications, digital services and innovations continuing to shape and change the industry, practitioners and medical organizations can no longer afford to fall behind the times. Failing to learn more about new potential security risks or electing to overlook the latest security resources and solutions could prove to be nothing short of a disaster. When it comes to maintaining patient data integrity, staying up to date with the latest technology or learning more about the most recent threats and security concerns is of paramount importance.

Gabriel Cabot is a digital marketing strategist from London who enjoys reading, writing and learning about new technologies, programming, health and the Internet.