Most healthcare providers and hospitals are scrambling to find ways to meet the HIPAA security regulations. Not being HIPAA compliant can cost your business big bucks, but it’s not just about the penalties involved. It’s about a duty of care.
Whether you are a patient or healthcare provider, we can all agree that protected health information (PHI) is important. But as a healthcare provider, how sure are you that your business is actually HIPAA compliant, and that you are fulfilling your duty of care? 80%? 90%? More? Would you bet your life on it?
We aren’t asking you to bet your life on it, but we are asking that you be aware of the areas of your business that could be/become a vulnerability – namely, your IT infrastructure.
Many businesses see their IT infrastructure as a means to an end. They invest in the latest operating systems and technology available, and, as long as the system works, they often don’t pay much attention to it. But IT infrastructure plays a significant role in HIPAA compliance.
In fact, your IT infrastructure may be the one thing that is stopping your business from being fully HIPAA compliant, and here’s how.
NO end-to-end email security
Most of us take email for granted. We shoot messages around cyberspace that carry more personal information than we realize – name, electronic signature, contact numbers, etc., and that’s just in our automated signature! Now, imagine how much more personal that information becomes if you are a doctor, and you are sharing patient notes with a colleague. If both you and the recipient are within the same firewall, then you are protected, but if not, and your email client doesn’t have end-to-end encryption, then you are NOT HIPAA compliant.
NO regular system updates
So, you have an operating system from 5 years ago (which is fine!), and you know that the manufacturer released a couple of updates over the past few months. You’ve been busy, though, and haven’t got around to updating your systems, are you still HIPAA compliant?
System updates are an essential part of keeping your entire operating system secure. Updates often include security patches to vulnerabilities discovered in the last version. Without regular updates, your system remains exposed and so does your patient’s PHI. Just because you’ve got an amazing antivirus program installed, a legacy operating system that is no longer updateable or one that has not been updated can make your business non-compliant and your patient’s PHI unsecure.
NO data encryption
We all know “it’s better to be safe than sorry”, so the more you can protect your patient’s PHI the better. While data encryption is not singled out as the only way to achieve HIPAA compliance, it is a sure-fire way to be compliant. Encrypting your organization’s data automatically ensures adherence to the HIPAA Security Rule and, therefore, ensures your business is HIPAA compliant. Without data encryption, your organization will need to provide evidence that you are complying with the Security Rule through alternative methods.
The HIPAA Security Rule identifies 2 types of data that need to be protected: data in transit and data at rest. You can encrypt both types of data with the right infrastructure, software, and expertise. With complete data encryption, you will rest easy knowing that even if a security breach does occur, your patient’s PHI will remain secure from attackers.
Get your IT infrastructure up to scratch
Healthcare providers and third-party vendors are required to meet strict regulations, and this includes their IT infrastructure. Without proper IT infrastructure, it would be difficult for an organization to maintain HIPAA compliance at all, so business owners should ensure that their IT infrastructure is up to par. This means making sure that all files, databases, and other electronic resources are secured risk-free from unauthorized access and protection from malicious actors.
Plan ahead with an MSP
Business owners should plan ahead when it comes to their IT needs and HIPAA compliance, and a HIPAA-verified managed service provider (MSP) like Merit Technologies can help you do this. Whether it be employee training, preparing mission-critical systems, responding to security threats, maintaining secure systems, or ensuring your IT infrastructure is up to scratch if you need help with HIPAA compliance or just want to find out more about what it means for your business, contact the team at Merit Technologies.