You’ve seen the headlines splashed on TV and across the internet: data breaches hit national businesses such as Target, Chipotle, and many large healthcare systems.
But data breaches don’t just affect large corporate entities, they affect small healthcare organizations as well. Take the case of Holland Eye Laser Surgery in March 2018. Their five-provider group practice saw a data breach which made available the patient records of 42,000 patients. Hackers were able to access Social Security numbers, birth records, and other sensitive protected health information (PHI).
In fact, some of the medical records of these patients were sold off by data hackers. Officials from the practice stated that they’re now working to strengthening their security system. But once patient trust is lost, sometimes it just cannot be restored.
Brief primer on HIPAA and data breaches:
- The Privacy Rule protects individually identifiable health information held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form, whether electronic, paper, or verbal
- Each entity must analyze the risks to e-PHI in its environment and create solutions appropriate for its own situation.
- The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires providers to notify affected individuals, HHS, and in some cases, the media of a breach of unsecured PHI. Most notifications must be provided without delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach.
5 tips to help you and your medical staff to avoid data breaches:
- CMS requires organizations to “implement policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain, and correct security violations.” (45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(1).) Conduct a detailed risk analysis to evaluate the current staff and product deficiencies and create corrective measures.
- Designate a staff member to train employees on your practice’s HIPAA policies and procedures and spend time going over typical breaches.
- Hire an outside expert to help your organization with compliance support. Your outside organization should set up monthly meetings with the business owners to evaluate your company compliance program and work with your organization to identify cost-effective resources to keep your company compliant.
- Customize your internet toolbars with anti-phishing protection. These applications can run website checks and compare them to lists of known phishing sites and alert users.
- Be suspicious of any email message that asks you to enter or verify personal information through a website or by replying to the message itself. Practice groups and or staff members should never reply to or click the links in such a message.
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