The vital importance of HIPAA compliance, coupled with the risks inherent in modern technology, means any healthcare provider needs to be extremely vigilant in protecting patient records. As new methods for preventing network and legal violations are tested and implemented, those in charge of keeping these records from prying eyes need to stay current with more secure solutions.
Is your practice as secure as it possibly could be? Chances are, you have opportunities for data theft, and you may not even be aware of them. To help you keep your patient records safe, here are some ideas you can implement to keep your practice secure.
Secure Your Wireless Networks
Chances are excellent your practice employs a wireless network. Have you examined it lately to determine where vulnerabilities lie? Here’s a checklist for making sure your wireless network is offering ideal protection:
- Check your network’s security standard. Once a system is in place, it’s easy to forget about it, which brings openings for intrusions. Is your router an older model that uses an outdated standard? WEP, a common one, is 12 years old, which has given hackers more time to develop ways to bypass it. Find out if upgrading your wireless hardware can provide more security.
- Change passwords often, and make them secure. At a bare minimum, make sure your wireless network is password protected — and if it is, that it’s not a default one from the factory. Then, don’t rest easy. Passwords can be obtained through a variety of methods, so create a schedule for changing them regularly, as often as every two to three months. When you do create new passwords, don’t use ones that are easy to guess. Research best practices for passwords that utilize symbols or phrases.
Protect Your Network Inside and Out
It’s far too easy to set up a firewall and antivirus software, then assume you are adequately protected. These can both be bypassed, however, and if you have no additional protection, someone could effortlessly access your data. Explore ways you can add additional levels of protection beyond your firewall, such as segregated networks to wall off sections of data.
Encrypt Your Devices
Even with a well-protected network, data breaches can still occur if accessible devices aren’t protected. Anything that could provide access to patient data needs to have a layer of encryption, including smartphones, tablets, portable drives and laptops.
Commit to Staff Education
Good security measures extend well beyond technology. Even the most secure network’s biggest vulnerabilities often lie with staff members. Make sure every member of your clinic knows the importance of avoiding a HIPAA violation and train them on how your security measures keep these from occurring.
Teach them how to create secure passwords and how they can protect connected devices. Make them aware of social engineering schemes, commonly called “phishing,” where hackers provide false identities over the phone or by email to try to glean ways to bypass security. Train them to be constantly vigilant about data security, and you’ll add a strong layer of protection to your network.
If you are familiar with the intricacies of modern technology, make time to review all aspects of your system regularly. And if you aren’t, find a trusted security partner who can evaluate your system and recommend ways to improve it. All it takes is one slip-up to create major problems in protecting your records, so don’t let security measures fall by the wayside.
Use an Electronic Health Record (EHR) Software
Using a behavioral health EHR software can help your practice ensure all patient data is safely stored and HIPAA-compliant while remaining easily accessible to clinicians when they need to review their assessments and progress notes quickly. Our proprietary behavioral health EHR software includes the following features for added levels of protection:
- Individual user authentication
- Access controls
- Audit trails
- Remote access point protection
- Alarm and event reporting
- Access establishment and modifications
- Privacy of psychotherapy notes
- Ability to prevent the alteration or destruction of an electronic record
- 128-bit data encryption
Clinical Director October has been a Registered Nurse for over 15 years. She is board certified in Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also graduated with bachelor and master degrees in Nursing from Western Governors University.