Data security has become a major source of concern in the healthcare industry. Hospitals now provide efficient online portals to improve communication between patients and doctors. Instead of patients waiting for hours or days to see their doctors, they use these portals and email to talk to their doctors and even receive the results of their medical tests.
However, this information is constantly being exposed to threats of data breaches and the risk of hacking and malware. Here are some steps that healthcare organizations can take to enhance healthcare information security.
1. Protect Patient Information With Encryption
Encryption is the process of protecting data with a secret code. This code allows the data to get scrambled so that any application or user who doesn’t have the code key cannot read it. Today, patient personal information and confidential medical information is stored on hospital servers and on the cloud with a live internet connection. That’s why it’s essential to keep this data from prying eyes and hackers. Even when data is being transmitted within the hospital network, it should be encrypted.
2. Develop Effective Key Management Practices
Ensure that your organization has a key management strategy in place when you use encryption. This will enable you to recover encrypted data if a key isn’t available or it gets destroyed. Also, if employees use removable media or mobile devices to access data, those too can be encrypted for security.
But you need to carefully consider what can happen if the encryption keys are changed. You may have to arrange for the previous encryption keys to be kept and retrieved from a safe place when needed.
3. Encrypt Both Data in Transit and Data in Storage
Data in transit is information that is sent from one computer, mobile device or individual to another. This could be by email, through native applications or internet protocols like HTTP, or FTP. If this information is not protected with encryption, it could be intercepted by unauthorized persons.
For example, in September 2015, the Department of Health in North Carolina experienced a data breach due to a wrongly encrypted email, and the data for over 524 patients were put at risk.
On the other hand, data in storage is data that exists on a hard drive or removable media like a flash drive, CD, or DVD. It can also include mobile devices like cell phones. Making backups to CDs and external removable media should not be allowed if they cannot be secured with encryption. In several instances, healthcare data breaches have occurred because unencrypted storage devices were stolen or lost.
4. Enforce Data Encryption and BYOD Strategies
If your organization allows BYOD – bring your own device policies – it’s vital to implement proper encryption. BYOD policies affect both data in transit and data in storage. BYOD allows healthcare professionals to host some patient data on their devices for better patient care and productivity.
They can also send messages efficiently with them. Whether healthcare providers work with hospital-owned mobile devices or not, they must use effective data security software and agree in writing to all encryption policies and maintain data security on their devices.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
Do you want to discover how to easily transfer patient data in the most secure manner for your organization’s health IT projects? Contact Lifepoint Informatics at 877.522.8378 for a free consultation now.