Protecting healthcare data from unauthorized access and potentially malicious use, is a legislative requirement for all healthcare companies. HIPAA compliance is far from simple to both obtain, and maintain. Therefore, it is vital that any company operating within the healthcare market takes healthcare data security seriously.
The Key Steps Towards Healthcare Data Security
There are three major steps that need to be taken as your organization moves toward a robust healthcare data security environment:
- Technology – this step covers all of the issues that relate to storing healthcare data securely, and the technology used. This encompasses hardware such as servers, as well as infrastructure such as LAN/WAN. It will also cover data or computing services supplied by any third party provider.
- Processes – here we are including all of the administrative processes and methods in place to ensure that medical data is kept secure. This includes items such as how waste is disposed of, or how access to medical data is monitored.
- Physical – all data is housed somewhere, so the physical aspect of data security deals with how access to these locations is restricted and controlled.
Tackling the Threats to Healthcare Data Security
There are several requirements for ensuring that data security threats are minimized, and proactively prevented from causing harm. Initially, this will require analysis of the potential threats, and developing corresponding responses. This gives a starting point.
Following on from this investigative stage, the organization needs to begin moving towards a fully compliant manner of dealing with healthcare data security. This will cover all three key steps outlined above: technology, process and physical aspects.
Implementing Healthcare Data Security
From a technology viewpoint, this will include the implementation of security systems that proactively monitor core infrastructure. There is also a need to perform frequent security testing and auditing of all technology. Network penetration testing, implementing robust data encryption techniques, and system monitoring are all possible aspects of this step.
Working from the process point of view, this will mean testing current business processes against potential threats. Here we need to tackle everything from employee security training procedures, through to how data access is controlled and provisioned.
Finally, the physical location of stored data needs to be secured. This means implementing advanced security procedures such as logged access. This could also be combined with additional security technology such as fingerprint scanners etc.
Combining the Three Steps
It should be quite clear, that these three key steps of technology, process and physical security are all interlinked. For example, physically logging access using keycards or some other form of access control to data storage locations, also has technological implications.
Therefore, in order to attain a fully compliant platform for managing healthcare data security, it will require cooperation across multiple departments. Possibly the best solution here, is the creation of a compliance team, taking members from multiple departments. This compliance team will be responsible for collaborating in the creation of a multi-doctrinal, end to end data security policy. This policy, once agreed, needs to be proactively applied across all technological, process driven and physical as aspects of the organization.
For more insights, watch the on-demand webinar Using Data Security to address HIPAA and HITECH Regulations.