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How the Healthcare Field Keeps Your Information Secure

– Contributed content –

Big data graphic

(DARPA, Wikimedia Commons)

15 March 2018. You don’t want your health information getting into the wrong hands. Not only because you may simply want to keep your health information private, but because your health information in the wrong hands can make life miserable for you in the form of identity theft.

Fortunately, the healthcare field takes your information very seriously. With HIPAA being passed a couple of decades ago, healthcare providers have gotten really good at keeping your information safe. Here’s how they do it.

Compliance and risk assessment software

Compliance and risk assessment software is important in a wide variety of industries, but nowhere is it more important than the healthcare industry. Your healthcare provider has a wide range of information on file about you including:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your full medical history
  • A list of medications and treatments that have been received
  • Payment information

To ensure that information doesn’t get into the wrong hands and that they’re compliant with HIPAA, they use software that is able to identify non-compliant data, remediate weaknesses in the system, report risk assessments, and even integrate information from updated regulations. These systems are vital now that the majority of systems are internet- and cloud-based. Although convenient, it does make it easier for thieves all over the world to access your information unless these software is in place.

Proper staff training

It’s not just the systems that are important. The staff has to know how to use those systems, but they also have to know the ins and outs of HIPAA. If they don’t, they may accidentally divulge sensitive information and violate the policy without even knowing it.

Medical facilities take employee education seriously. Throughout the year, staff will:

  • Undergo training to know what does and doesn’t constitute a HIPAA violation
  • Learn about phishing, social engineering, and other scams that are meant to attack employees
  • Get advice on using technology safely, including how to create secure passwords

Protecting the network

Just because a healthcare agency is doing everything it can to ensure it is following HIPAA regulations doesn’t mean hackers care about that. A smart hacker can easily gain access to unprotected systems, which is why it is so important for healthcare providers to protect their wireless networks.

That means starting with firewalls and antivirus software, but it also means securing the wireless networks and encrypting important data. In addition, it means separating different departments and placing them on separate wireless networks. If you visit the doctor’s office, try to access their guest wireless network, and discover many different networks, you can feel confident that your healthcare provider is doing what they can to keep their systems secure.

Strict mobile device policy

It isn’t just the systems in the office that a healthcare provider has to worry about. Mobile devices are making it easier than ever for healthcare professionals to access vital information from multiple locations and networks. That means a strict mobile device policy is needed.

The right policy starts with outlining what devices are appropriate to use. For example, doctors may not be allowed to use their personal devices. Only mobile devices that are purchased and approved by the office may be used.

No matter what kind of portable devices are used, they should be encrypted properly. Hackers find it just as easy to access portable devices, which means cell phones and tablets require the same level of security as desktop and laptop computers.

Choose their third-party vendors carefully

It isn’t enough for healthcare providers to get their own systems figured out so they comply with HIPAA regulations. Anyone the office works with who might have access to health information needs the same level of security as well.

As much as 63 percent of security breaches occur on third-party vendor systems. That’s why healthcare professionals choose the vendors they work with carefully. First, they know which vendors need to have extra security. For example, a remodeling contractor likely won’t need any additional security, while a third-party IT company does.

Only vendors that have systems in place to comply with HIPAA regulations are able to work with your healthcare providers. They are interviewed and vetted before work even begins.

Thinking about your information getting into the wrong hands is a scary thought. Fortunately, your doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals have a vested interest in keeping your information safe, not just to provide good customer service, but in order to comply with HIPAA regulations. Knowing how they keep your information with the items on this list hopefully brings you some peace of mind.

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