The focus on securely storing and protecting your patients' information mandate that you use the right tools and systems to fulfill this requirement. This necessity should generate at least two questions.
- Are you using the right tools now to protect your patient data?
- How can you ensure that you use the best systems to securely store and protect your patient information?
Consider these suggestions to create a checklist of features your system should include to meet privacy, storage and protection guidelines. These tips will help you identify the right tools to safely protect patient data and satisfy security mandates.
How to Identify the Right Tools for Patient Data Security
A. Examine current administrative safeguards:
- Perform a risk assessment.
- Design a risk management procedure.
- Create practice policies for safe and secure storage of patient data.
B. Evaluate Your Physical Security Measures:
- Limit physical access to your systems that store patient information.
- Password protect workstations that have access to patient health information (PHI).
- Prohibit removal of electronic media with PHI from the workplace.
C. Analyze Your Technical Security Procedures:
- Give access to PHI only to those that need it, on a "need to know" basis.
- Create an internal audit procedure to examine your IT tools that contain PHI.
- Ensure your electronic systems have high-level integrity to prevent others from altering, destroying or changing PHI.
- Evaluate the security of your transmission of PHI over electronic networks.
Suggesttions to Have the Right Tools to Meet Meaningful Use and PHI Security Requirements
- Display leadership by emphasizing the importance of protecting patient information to ensure privacy and security.
- Document all policies, procedures and efforts to ensure security.
- Evaluate your security analysis results to identify risks to PHI.
- After analysis and evaluation, create a new action plan, if necessary.
- Be sure your action plan and tools mitigate risks, which can be lowered to manageable levels.
- Ensure your electronic health records (EHRs) are protected by having locked server rooms, using strong passwords, performing regular backups and having disaster plans for data recovery after server crashes.
- Give your staff thorough education and training on protecting PHI.
- Advise your patients their information is confidential and protected to minimize patient privacy fconcerns.
- Ensure your "business associate agreements" contain language that mandates they remain in HIPAA privacy and security compliance.
- Register for EHR Incentive Programs only after you can attest (with confidence) that your practice meets or exceeds meaningful use requirements, including documentation that you've performed a security risk analysis and identified potential problems with PHI security.
- Consider using a top third-party medical documentation and billing firm, such as M-Scribe Technologies, to minimize the staff burden of compliance with regulations and better ensure practice compliance.
Hopefully, you have not made a major investment in IT systems that fall short of ensuring security and protection of patient information and EHRs. However, going through this checklist will determine if your systems and procedures are sufficient to be considered the right tools and policies to securely protect your patient data.
Understand that your objectivity in evaluating your current tools is critical to installing the best systems to ensure patient privacy and information protection. Spending time analyzing the tools now in use is more efficient than needing to fix leaked or unlawfully changed patient data. Solutions are more like putting toothpaste back into its tube or unringing a bell, than finding answers to problems: Serious damage may already been done.
Identifying the right tools to protect patient data--and yourself--will eliminate (or minimize) the need for costly solutions after a problem occurs. Once you take action to maintain security, if appropriate, or improve EHR safety, if necessary, be sure to document your efforts. Should HIPAA or other regulators ask for evidence, you'll have it, further protecting yourself from challenges.