While I cannot stress enough that security does not equate to compliance as far as healthcare is concerned, it is still true that securing important systems in your health organization goes a long way toward meeting regulations—and living up to the trust of your patients.
In many cases, compliance may need to go beyond HIPAA regulations. A recent survey conducted by Accenture and the American Medical Association (AMA) revealed that 4 out of 5 surveyed doctors had experienced some kind of cyberattack. Concern in the medical community is widespread, especially when a breach can compromise large amounts of critical information. Among healthcare providers, sharing data has become the norm to ensure a seamless experience for patients, but this also creates more potential for a security breach.
Since every practice is different, it comes down to them to formulate a plan on how to tackle cybersecurity to reach compliance—or go beyond, if it comes to that.
However, the rise of organizations dedicated to helping care providers achieve compliance can offset some of the difficulties inherent in cybersecurity. With smaller hospitals and practices, it can be difficult to justify having an on-staff IT expert to handle data management. In many cases, these organizations will either spend money on a full-time staff member that they don’t necessarily need, or let data concerns fall by the wayside. This is where hiring third-part IT experts comes into play; organizations can get as much work done as necessary without having to worry about the logistics of recruiting staff.
And regardless of who is responsible for a care provider’s cybersecurity, a comprehensive audit of all systems involved may be necessary to prevent future breaches. Systems that may not necessarily involve patient data may become compromised, leading to poor security elsewhere. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has published toolkits to prepare for HIPAA audits, and has praised the merits of good information governance by going beyond what is required for regulatory compliance.
This is when risk assessment becomes important—knowing the path that information takes as it moves in and out of an organization is the first step to ensuring that it is safe. Understanding the way systems are connected and even the non-technological ways data can be compromised is increasingly important in the modern environment. Even beyond theft, making backups is important, as is having a disaster recovery plan in the event of an environmental cataclysm.
The fact is, audits can often reveal vulnerabilities that your organization may not have been sure existed. They also create opportunities for a care provider to reevaluate their IT practices and find a better option in a third-party if the situation calls for it. Take the time to rethink your needs and develop a plan that is ideal for you.