Patients have the right to keep their health records private and to know if their information is shared with others. Generally, a healthcare provider may only release an individual’s information with written consent, unless the information is critical for any treatment the patient will receive or if necessary to protect the public at large. In today’s technological world, the majority of patient data is stored in hospital or clinic systems and software. While certainly an efficient manner of securing information, technologies’ ever-changing state may also leave the information exposed to certain vulnerabilities, such as hacking.
Then how does one keep patient information secured from ever-present threats? Unfortunately, there is no single security measure that can be implemented as a sufficient defense. Rather, one must implement multiple defenses that serve as protective mechanisms to slow down any potential attack and make data access more difficult.
Typical defensive measures include firewall and antivirus solution protections, spam filters to block malicious emails and proper security awareness for staff to avoid phishing tactics, data encryption for all portable devices, and intrusion detection systems that monitor irregular network activity. Holders of confidential patient information are also advised to have extensive backup systems in place to ensure patient information is never lost.
This details only a few of the many ways to ensure patient information remains protected, and while it seems a task better left to IT departments than physicians and other healthcare providers, it is important to know of such measures. Think, how would you respond if a patient asked you how you keep their information secured? More importantly, how would you respond if the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board asked you the same question? In a time where healthcare data breaches are not unheard of, leading to such risks as patient identity theft, patient concern regarding their data security is heightened. Patients are seeking reassurance that their information is kept secure and confidential, and turn more to physicians and nurses for that comfort.
Having a working knowledge of the steps being taken to protect patient information not only brings comfort to patients but can also bring you peace of mind. Reviewing your data security practices and ensuring compliance with the information safeguard provisions of HIPAA ensure you can demonstrate all appropriate measures have been taken, should any attempt to compromise your confidential patient information occur. If a complaint is ever lodged against your license for violations of the above situations, contact Williams & Nickl and they can help protect your license to practice – it is all they do.