Many doctors and medical offices are concerned about the security of their patients’ information after a recent security breach in the healthcare industry. Although there are services to reduce security problems – including free IT assessment and managed IT support – every healthcare provider should be aware of best practices.
Just a few months ago, Anthem Inc., the second largest health insurance provider in the country, had a major security breach that jeopardized the personal information of over 80 million clients. Leaked information included names, birthdays, home addresses, Social Security information and work histories. Luckily, no medical information was breached in the very sophisticated and targeted attack on Anthem’s network.
That may sound like cold comfort to the people whose information was stolen, but to Anthem it’s actually incredibly good news. Why? Since no medical information was lost in the hack, Anthem is still in compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
HIPAA and HITECH Compliance are Essential
To avoid major liability issues, all doctors and medical offices must be in compliance with HIPAA, but they must also be in compliance with HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health). Passed three years after HIPAA, HITECH was enacted to further protect patients’ information by increasing the penalties associated with non-compliance to HIPAA. This additional act was considered necessary due to advancements in technology and the fact that more data of all kinds is increasingly stored digitally.
What does this mean for you and your practice? Essentially, it means that you need to ensure that you’re compliant with both HIPAA and HITECH if you want to avoid major fines and other potential legal ramifications associated with loss or breach of patients’ medical information.
Talk to IT Consultants in Miami
To do this, you have a choice. You can attempt to take care of all of the necessary security measures on your own or you can turn to a company that specializes in IT consulting.
To do it yourself, you’ll not only have to dive into all the legal documentation surrounding HIPAA and HITECH, you’ll also need a crash course in network security. A more sensible approach would be to focus on your patients’ healthcare instead of IT management. While you and your staff are highly qualified in your fields, you may not necessarily be experts on information security. A premier IT management company, on the other hand, can diagnose, treat and maintain your electronic network’s “health.”
When deciding on an IT consulting firm, you’ll want to make sure that you choose experts who are well-versed in HIPAA compliant hosting services and who will follow all of the necessary protocols involved with securing a medical office’s network. In addition to network security, these protocols include physical and technical safeguards, as well as specific technical policies. When you seek out IT consulting in Miami, look for a firm that will ensure you have these elements in place and that you are both HIPAA and HITECH compliant.
Believe it or not, network and information security isn’t just about firewalls and anti-virus software. It’s also about the physical security of your office. To be HIPAA compliant, you’ll need to ensure that your office has limited access to patients and the public. You’ll also need controlled access to all workstations and electronic media.
In addition to limiting physical access to workstations and other electronic media, you’ll also need to ensure that all of your workstations and devices are access-controlled electronically. This includes implementing encryption, user IDs, automatic log-off on workstations, password protection and other electronic safeguards.
Those safeguards also include regular security audit reports and/or tracking logs of both hardware and software activity. These measures are put in place for forensic purposes, so that you can quickly find the cause or source of any violations of your security protocols.
As well, you’ll need to put policies in place concerning use of technical materials in your office. These policies will prohibit any tampering, alteration, or destruction of electronic protected health information (ePHI). They’ll also cover plans for IT disaster recovery and call for off-site backups to ensure redundancy. These policies will make certain that you and your patients can access their sensitive medical information after a crash or outage.
Are You in Compliance?
After reading through this overview of best practices and requirements for HIPAA compliance, you may be wondering whether or not your practice is compliant. If in doubt, you should seek IT help immediately. Consultants who have experience with HIPAA compliance can cover all of your bases for you and ensure that you aren’t at risk for an even more devastating attack than the Anthem breach.
Managed IT Services Keep Your Network Safe
Staying in compliance with HIPAA and HITECH and keeping your patients’ personal, payment and medical information secure isn’t a one-time service. Hackers are constantly testing exploits and network security weaknesses, and a single update to your safeguards and policies will only protect you and your patients for so long before a new virus or other piece of malware emerges.
When you choose managed IT services from Preemo, we’ll install monitoring software that will allow us to keep an eye on your network 24 hours a day. For a flat monthly fee, we’ll ensure that you’re HIPAA and HITECH compliant and that all of your data is safe from attacks. We’ll also be on-call to help you every day of the week with remote and/or on-site technical support. If you need IT assistance, you’ll be our top priority.
To learn more about HIPAA compliance, managed IT services and other options for your network security, call us at 305-722-7162