For years, HIPAA guidelines have been in place that require the security of patient records from the risk of loss or damage, and all healthcare professionals must adhere to these regulations. It is essential that you are aware of these requirements and have a plan in place to enforce them.
One of the main reasons why you need to safeguard your website from data breaches is that it is required in the form of HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security laws. The HIPAA privacy law was put into effect to set boundaries for how medical establishments, including corporations and private practices, can use and release health records and confidential patient information. Basically, a company must ensure that patient data is protected, so patients can feel comfortable knowing that their information is in good hands.
With this requirement of health data privacy, it’s imperative that companies have proper safeguards in place to help prevent breaches, and that is where the HIPAA security law comes in. This basically says that administrative, physical, and digital protections must be put in place so that data cannot be leaked. Failure to protect the data and be the victim of a data breach could leave you legally and financially liable.
The fact is that when patient information is disclosed, it is usually not because of employers accidentally leaking the data, but instead due to data breaches via hacking, gaps in your systems, and a lack of knowledge. When such an incident does occur, it can result in serious damages via lawsuits. Just this year, UCLA Health was sued by the victims of a data breach and forced to pay out $7.5 million in settlements. This is a situation you do not want to find yourself in, especially if you are an individual or small private practice, so it is important to be proactive.
Be Proactive and Not Reactive
The HIPAA security rule mentions many processes and understandings that health organizations must have to protect patient data, and one of them is to complete risk analyses and have plans in place in the case of a data breach. A risk analysis should make you aware of all potential dangers, whether it be from hackers, natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks. But in addition to knowing the risk, you must also have a plan of action to mitigate the damage after the fact. When it comes to data breaches, it is important to be up to date on all current threats so you know the angle a hacker may be coming from and avoid any potential mistakes.
You also want to make sure that your backup servers are in good working order. If your primary system goes down, you need to have confidence that these backup servers can pick up the slack and keep the patient’s data protected. Many health companies use backup services on the cloud. The cloud allows you to have a constantly connected backup system that will also store an almost limitless number of files.
If your attempts to secure your data are thwarted and you still experience a data breach, then you need to take the necessary steps. First, you need to find out what data was stolen and inform the affected patients so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves. After that, make the necessary security updates, and once you have, let the customers know what you have done to prevent the situation from occurring again in the future.
Understand How to Prevent Breaches
Another part of the HIPAA security rule is that all employees must be trained on current threats and how to avoid them. It is absolutely essential that you or your IT department is up to date on current hacking practices, and that these threats and their potential solutions are shared with the team. The thing about a data breach is that a hacker doesn’t have to have a complex strategy to gain access to a health entity with weakened security. Sometimes it can be as easy as having a weak password or accepting a malevolent email.
Many breaches start from phishing emails which are sent to appear legitimate but instead have a dangerous link that could open a door to your business. As a practice, never click on a link in an email unless you know for sure that it is from a legitimate source. Some signs of a phishing scam include using an email address that looks correct but is actually off by a letter, emails full of spelling mistakes, and messages that include harmful attachments that you should not open unless you know it is safe.
Hackers can also get in by infiltrating your website, so you need to ensure that it is fully secure with updated software and complex passwords. All employees should know to update their passwords regularly and use detailed passwords that incorporate numbers and symbols. Also, ensure that there is a firewall installed and that your website does not allow any unauthorized uploads.
The importance of safeguarding your website from data breaches cannot be understated, as it is not only legally required, but it also ensures a level of trust with your patients that they truly deserve. Take the proper precautions and your healthcare website will continue to thrive.
Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.