Securing Digital Health Data: From Chaos to HIPAA Compliance

Securing Digital Health Data: From Chaos to HIPAA Compliance

The transformation that the digital technology has brought in to our lives is astonishing. From using credit cards that don’t require a pin to carrying personal tracking devices, our data is used by these companies to understand consumer behavior.
There’s huge flow of big data and analyzing each data has become crucial for growing industries to identify patterns. But when it comes to healthcare, patients are more cautious on how their personal health data is used by the company and how it is protected from any breach.

Why Is It Important?

Healthcare group of Pennsylvania, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, Bupa global health insurance and Indiana Medicaid are one of the few organizations subjected to data breaches in the past where confidential patient data of more than 1.5 million were compromised.
This was a wake-up call for healthcare companies and government to not treat the matter of privacy of patients records lightly.

Government Formed HIPAA
From breaches of this kind and the misuse of technology stems the guidelines and standards for protecting sensitive patient data which come under HIPAA i.e Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act.
According to HIPAA, any company that deals with PHI i.e Protected Health Information must ensure that all the necessary physical, network and process security measure are in place and followed.

HIPAA: From Past To Present

In earlier days keeping patient data secure included measures, such as making sure the documents are locked in filing cabinets and having burglar alarm at the requisite places.

Few Rules –

• However today with private health information moving to digitization with electronic health records, remote patient monitoring, clinical trial management and lab informatics systems- HIPAA compliance is of paramount importance.

• Since many private and public healthcare organizations are involved in health care entities although it includes providing treatment, operation, payment or anyone who may have access to patient information are covered under HIPAA.

• Health care providers are often under attack by ransomware. Ransomware is a denial of service attacks which lock up systems and hold them hostage until a ransom is paid to unlock the system. In such circumstances, HIPAA policy safeguards technical aspects of the systems which are- admission control are allowed only to authorized personnel to access health information. These access controls include unique user ids, automatic log off, emergency access procedure and encryption and decryption.

• Audit reports and tracking logs that record activity on hardware and software also come under its purview. With the increased use of storage and transmittal of electronic health information, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was also passed. This act supports HIPAA by increasing the penalties paid by health organizations who violate HIPAA rules.

• Although there are a basic set of rules that prevent health data security in healthcare commercial service providers such as claim management companies or insurance premium providers, HIPAA is a bonus that enhances the privacy protection component of these organizations.

All these efforts made in maintaining the confidentiality of health care records serve as a lesson that no health care association should be floating when it comes data privacy and security activities.
People entrust their healthcare to these organizations; it is important to take care of their personal health information as well by constant vigilance, routine training, regular updates to security risk assessments, and implementation of policies as they are written.