5 Steps to Protect Your Patient’s Health Information

The protection of Patient Health Information (PHI) issue was addressed for the first time by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. This was later supported by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009. The HITECH Act fixed some issues related with HIPPA about enforcement of the law on business associates of healthcare providers. The Act also encourages the adoption of meaningful use of Electronic Health Records (EHR). Furthermore, there are additional Federal and State laws protecting patient information.

Under HIPAA law, there are three sets of rules regarding privacy, security, and breach notification. The Privacy Rule states how and when the protected PHIs can be disclosed, i.e., who can use them and how. The Security Rule pertains to how the health information is to be secured by the covered organizations and their business associates. And last but not the least, the Breach Notification Rule, required all healthcare organizations to promptly notify the affected parties (and if applicable, the media) about unauthorized disclosure of information.

The Ponemon Institute in its annual study stated in 2006 that it found, for the sixth year in a row, the trend of a high number of breaches in the healthcare industry. The report further revealed that 90 percent of healthcare providers maintained that they had a data breach in last two years, and nearly half of them had more than 5 data breaches during the same period. This is a serious concern for the patients, healthcare organizations, and the government. Various government agencies and courts have levied hefty fines due to HIPAA law infringement upon multiple organizations.

Thus, it is obvious that protection PHIs, or more precisely ePHIs, is paramount to all parties connected with healthcare industry; practices, hospitals, their business associates and insurance providers. This article gives five simple steps to ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to patient data protection:

  1. Do A Proper Privacy and Risk Assessment

Perform a periodic privacy and security assessment. Be thorough about your analysis; review each and every step of the data collection, transmission, and storage process. Be on the lookout for recent breach incidents and analyze how those breaches occurred. Then compare these breaches with your system and see if you also have any vulnerabilities.

  1. Implement Data Encryption and Privacy Policy

Implement a proper data encryption strategy for all types of electronic equipment that have access to the electronic medical records (EMR). Ensure all parties are clear about the privacy policy of your organization. Having your privacy policy in written form and distributed to all employees and contracting parties will go far in ensuring HIPAA compliance by all parties.

  1. Keeping the Technology Up-to-Date

Keep all your software and equipment Up-to-Date. Since professional hackers always find new ways of getting around even the most advanced technology. Thus, it is essential always to stay one step ahead of these professional hackers. Having a secure firewall and multiple step validation improves data security manifold.

  1. Have an Incidence Response Plan

Despite all your efforts, there is still no surety of complete patient data security. Data breaches do occur, and you need to be prepared in case an incident does happen with data under your supervision. Having a medical billing company mitigates the risk of data breach. Furthermore, to avoid having to pay huge fines, ensure that you or your medical billing company in USA has a proper data breach insurance coverage. Fines could go in millions depending on the type and level of breach.

P3 Healthcare Solutions uses the state of the art technology to ensure that all data under its responsibility is kept safe and secure. We do not only keep the reputation of our clients and the legal requirements in mind but also are aware of the patient’s right to their privacy.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

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