Every organization that stores health and medical records on behalf of patients must adhere to HIPAA regulations. The regulations specify which records must be stored, which security measures must be taken, and when records must be destroyed.
There are special challenges associated with health IT data management. At Gilmore Services, we have a deep understanding of HIPAA regulations and work closely with our clients in the health and medical industries to ensure compliance and security.
We’ve put together this brief guide to the best practices for health IT data management to help you protect your patients’ data and your company’s reputation.
Understand the Threats to Your Data
You can’t protect your data unless you understand where the threats to its security are coming from. You can learn about some of the most common methods bad actors use to access data from the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.
One of the biggest mistakes that healthcare providers make is worrying only about outside threats to their data while ignoring inside threats. Even a dedicated, well-meaning employee can put your data at risk through carelessness.
Part of your threat surveillance should include a complete audit of your system to identify potential vulnerabilities and access points.
Create a Data Management Policy
You can’t expect employees to adhere to a set of data management standards that don’t exist. Your organization should have a written data management policy that includes:
- Rules for the proper labeling and categorization of data
- Rules for proper data storage
- Rules governing the access to data
- Rules for data destruction
Your written policy will do two things at once. First, it will provide a roadmap for your IT department to protect your data. Second, it will ensure that employees understand their responsibilities when it comes to managing your data properly.
Improve Your Infrastructure to Protect Your Data
After your data management policy is in place, it’s time to make improvements to your infrastructure to secure your data. For example, you may need to update your firewall, find a secure cloud storage partner, or improve security protocols.
It’s become increasingly common for companies to use two-factor authentication for employees with access to sensitive medical data. Employees will need both a password and a biometric scan, usually a fingerprint, to access data.
You may also want to consider implementing a least access system that limits access to data to employees who need it. These policies limit the risk of breaches by ensuring that unauthorized personnel can’t get to your data.
Encryption is a must for sensitive data. You may decide to partner with a data management specialist who can provide top-level encryption and secure storage for your data.
Finally, you should think about end-point protection of your data. It’s no longer enough to install anti-virus and anti-malware software on your network. You must think about phishing attacks, ransomware, and do whatever you can to protect your data.
Ultimately, your IT data management system is only as good as your employees’ execution of it. For that reason, employee education and training are essential parts of your security system.
Employee training may include:
- Information about HIPAA guidelines and how to follow them
- Explanations of common attacks, including phishing
- Rules for the use of mobile devices and outside applications, including a written BYOA (bring your own application) policy
We recommend having employees sign an acknowledgement of your written policy when you issue it and making attendance at security training classes mandatory. That way, you’ll be sure that every employee is a member of your security team.
Protecting your data should be an organization-wide priority. The best practices we’ve outlined here will protect your data and help you keep the trust of your patients.
To learn more about Gilmore Services’ HIPAA-compliant storage and data management, please click here now.