According to the US National Center for Health Statistics, the term “chronic disease” is defined as a disease lasting three months or more. In general, it cannot be prevented by a vaccine, nor cured by medication. It won’t just disappear. Therefore, the only way to live with it is to find ways to alleviate the suffering and make the condition not as severe.
IT security works in much the same manner. No silver bullet will eliminate the need for security altogether. To keep your data safe and secure, it requires ongoing treatment, testing, and re-evaluation, again and again. The goal will never be to remove the problem; instead, it’s about lessening the possibilities and lowering the risk.
In the healthcare industry, things change daily. While in-person patient care has always been the norm, advances in telemedicine are making patient care better and more accessible to all. It helps keep medical costs as low as possible, and can allow medical staff to go where their skills are truly needed the most.
But telemedicine comes with its own costs. Medical privacy and confidentiality issues extend to the telehealth industry. And under HIPAA, telemedicine clinicians have the same responsibility to protect medical records and keep information on treatment confidential. This extends to all files and processes used, including electronic files, images, video and audio recordings. They must be stored with the same guidelines as traditional paper documentation.
If you are incorporating telemedicine practices into your organization, at a minimum you should be:
Conducting annual HIPAA security risk analysis
Think of it as your own annual exam. Many changes take place each year, such as new system requirements, new system integration, IT infrastructure enhancements, organizational reconstruction, and employee turnover. And every time a change takes place, your data is at risk. Annual exams take a picture at a point in time to discover how well you’ve performed over the past year, and where improvements can be made in the coming year.
Encrypting all data on portable devices
Today, everyone has a variety of portable devices they use every day. Telemedicine practitioners will use their own devices. And if they leave them vulnerable and insecure, it puts your entire organization at risk. Over the last six years, loss or theft of unencrypted portable devices has made up over a third of all large breach incidents and put as much as 50 percent of all health data at risk. Requiring all devices that are used to access sensitive data is the first step in keeping data safe.
Running frequent assessments and testing
Hackers sole purpose is to break in, cause havoc, and get the information they are looking for. They don’t stop with one try; they work at it again and again. And because more of our data is being put online all the time, the level of intensity is only going to rise. If you’re not paying attention to the latest technology, the newest risks, and determining if your system has holes and weaknesses, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Frequent assessment and testing is the only way to stay ahead of hazards.
Training your workforce on security awareness
Your employee base stretches beyond those that come to the office every day. Do you have a formal training program for those that work out of their homes? Those that telecommute? Those that see patients via audio and video resources? Engagement is needed at all levels in order to create a secure wall around all sensitive data. And it can come in many forms, from internal training, daily reminders, or visual cues.