Healthcare providers and their affiliates operate in one of the most tightly regulated sectors of all. Unfortunately, they’re also prime targets for hackers seeking to steal confidential patient information or hold them to ransom through cyberextortion. To prevent your organization from becoming the next victim, and to uphold your legal obligations, you need to put data security and privacy first. The following checklist will help you achieve HIPAA and HITECH compliance:
#1. Onboarding employees
Enrolling new employees comes with many risks, but it’s also unavoidable. Whenever a new employee joins your team, one of the first things you should do is provide introductory security awareness training and familiarize them with your data security policies. Even if they have ample experience working with other healthcare providers, that doesn’t mean they’ll be immediately familiar with your systems and procedures. Aside from background checks and other obvious onboarding steps, you should also make compliance with your security policies a core part of your employment contracts.
#2. Raising awareness
With social engineering scams on the rise, the human element is almost always the weakest link when it comes to data security and privacy. Just one mistake can leave your organization open to a disastrous data breach, ransomware infection, or other attacks. Regulations demand that any organization handling patient health information (PHI) provide regular training to raise awareness and familiarize employees with the various risks. Ongoing training will also keep employees up to date with the latest threats and cybercrime trends, while also helping create a culture of accountability.
#3. Managing access rights
When it comes to managing access rights to any data-bearing systems in your organization, a good starting point is to follow the principle of least privilege. This way, employees only have access to the information they need to do their jobs. Administrators are tasked with managing these access rights, enforcing security policies, and locking down compromised accounts. You should also implement multifactor authentication (MFA), mobile device management, and a unified security infrastructure that provides administrators with full visibility into your digital assets. Finally, you’ll also need a clearly defined process in place for handling accounts belonging to employees who have left the organization or changed jobs or roles.
#4. Implementing physical safeguards
HIPAA compliance isn’t just about digital data and technology. It also covers printed records, as well as the physical controls intended to protect electronic PHI. ePHI may be stored in onsite data centers, cloud storage facilities, or even individual workstations or mobile devices. You’ll want to build a complete inventory of all the data-bearing hardware used in your organization and implement physical access controls to any facilities where these systems reside. It’s also a good idea to prevent employees from storing any confidential records on mobile devices or workstations. Instead, keeping everything in a cloud storage service or in-house data center with centralized access management will help ensure you always know where your data lives.
#5. Preparing for the worst
No matter how careful you are, the risk of a data breach will always be there. Although every organization should take proactive care to keep the risks down to acceptable levels, companies must have a documented process for dealing with a cyberattack. The breach notification protocol of HIPAA requires entities to notify the Department of Health and Human Services whenever a data breach is discovered. They also need to notify a major media outlet if the breach affects more than 500 patients. On top of that, and for the continued operation of your organization, you’ll also need an internal recovery and remediation plan that prepares for any eventuality.
Safebit Solutions provides comprehensive technology solutions to healthcare providers in and around Houston. Talk to us now to find out how our services and solutions can empower your organization.