Are Hackers After Your Electronic Health Records?



Are Hackers After Your Electronic Health Records?


With everything stored electronically, the threat of hackers will always be real, especially when it comes to your patients’ health records. While security measures are constantly being implemented and updated, the fact still remains that your electronic health records (EHRs) are at risk of theft, manipulation, or both, unless you take steps to ensure your patients’ privacy. Fortunately, this task is not difficult as long as you take a few necessary precautions and implement these steps with regard to the way your business handles its electronic data.



Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt


Encrypting your data is the most important step you can take towards ensuring complete security against a hack. Encryption uses an algorithm to convert information into a code, only cracked with a special ‘key’. Advancements in technology have given us access to powerful encryption, allowing us to create near-unbreakable codes.

Encryption, like any security measure, isn’t completely foolproof, so while it makes for a solid foundation it shouldn’t be considered a complete solution on its own. In addition, a firewall should always be enabled and configured on your network.



Complete audit trail


When it comes to accessing or altering your patient’s health records, a little due diligence goes a long way. It is vital to implement steps and procedures that ensure a complete audit is taken with regard to every action. This not only helps to ensure security, but also simplifies record-keeping, a necessary responsibility. Keeping tabs on who is accessing your data and why, along with keeping detailed records of any changes or recommendations, is one of the key advantages to storing data electronically. 



Specialized staff and training


Maintaining a system to properly audit the health records of your patients only works if your staff understand the steps that need to be taken, as well as how best to utilize these modern methods to their maximum effect. Hiring specialized staff helps, as well as properly training all current and new employees with regard to your system. Not all databases are created equal, with some being more advanced than others, so keeping everyone on the same page is crucial.

We would be remiss to point out that there is a potential security flaw in everyone, with ‘social hacking’ techniques becoming commonplace. While you probably trust every employee, placing access restrictions on any sensitive information is a must. Strict adherence, with no sharing of information might seem harsh, but is incredibly important.



Access Controls


Training goes a long way, but can fail if habits learned are not kept or implemented. We are all prone to complacency. Implementing measures that enforce good behaviour makes all the difference. The first step here is ensuring you utilize proper access controls. This involves assigning every individual their own, unique username, with a strong password containing numbers, symbols, and upper- and lower-case letters. As previously mentioned, encryption is good, but not unbreakable; longer, diverse passwords are preferred, with no sharing of login information permitted. To add value, these measures require almost no upkeep.



Back Your Data Up


When it comes to your data, making frequent backups, both on- and off-site, is crucial. If possible, having a backup power supply that operates for as long as it takes to do a full backup is always recommended. Furthermore, data storage centers are hugely important when it comes to protecting your EHRs. These facilities have 24/7 security and regular maintenance, with a team of experts to provide support whenever you need it, giving you complete peace of mind. There is absolutely no downside to using an off-site data storage centre for your backups. If a hack does take place, any lost information can be confidently restored.



Web-Based Software


With all the security issues that arise with regard to the internet, it should be noted that it also provides everything you need to equip yourself. There are plenty of quality, web-based software vendors that remove the need for you to keep anything locally, instead saving everything to their own servers, maintained a lot like an off-site data centre.



The Bottom Line


No matter what route you take, an effective risk assessment can be invaluable. Luckily, www.healthit.gov has a free Security Risk Assessment Tool that you can download to see where you need to apply your focus. A breach with regard to patient health records can be disastrous and potentially costly for everyone involved. It is up to you to ensure that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Thankfully, you now have everything you need to ensure that you’re completely covered, leaving you more time to focus on other aspects of your business.

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