Healthcare IT compliance has become a significant concern for medical offices. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons for downtime and data loss in healthcare. With the recent increase in cybersecurity attacks, it’s more important than ever for medical offices to protect their data. Here are some essential healthcare IT compliance tips for medical offices.
1. Make Sure You Have a Disaster Recovery Plan in Place
Medical offices are often required to back up data — including medical records — daily, but there’s nothing worse than being unable to access those documents when needed. So make sure your disaster recovery plan includes multiple copies of data stored off-site, preferably at another location owned by an independent party that isn’t affected by natural disasters or other events that could disrupt business operations. The cloud can be a good option for storing this type of data because it allows users to access it anywhere with an internet connection.
2. Be Aware of Data Retention Policies
Medical records must be kept securely for a minimum amount of time, depending on the type of information they contain and when it was created or last updated. For example, health insurance companies require that medical records held by doctors’ offices be retained for seven years after treatment ends; Medicare requires about ten years’ worth of record keeping on claims processing systems (and five years on paper). Other types of information — such as patient names and addresses — must also be retained according to federal regulations.
3. Ensure Your Systems are Updated and Use Encryption to Protect Patient Information
One of the biggest risks facing medical offices is outdated software and hardware. This can open your system to malware, viruses, and other cyberattacks that could compromise patient data. To prevent this from happening, make sure you’re regularly updating your systems and applications with the latest security patches. Encryption is one of the best ways to ensure that sensitive data remains private and secure both on-site and off-site. Encryption scrambles data so only authorized parties can access it — even if someone gains access to your system or steals it. Make sure you protect all patient files with encryption software, so they remain confidential no matter what happens.
4. Keep Data Safe
There are several ways to keep data safe, including ensuring only authorized people have access to it and ensuring sensitive data isn’t left on devices when they’re not needed. For example, if you’re working from home or traveling on business, make sure any devices containing sensitive information are password protected and encrypted so they can’t be accessed by others who shouldn’t have access to them. You should also consider using a cloud storage solution such as Dropbox or OneDrive to access your files from anywhere with an internet connection.
5. Limit Employee Access to Sensitive Information Such as PHI (Protected Health Information)
If a patient is injured in an accident, they may be brought into the emergency room, where they’ll be treated until they’re stable enough to move elsewhere. The hospital staff needs to have access to this information so they can treat the patient properly. However, once the patient has been discharged, there’s no need for them to have access anymore. In fact, it’s illegal for patients’ health records to be shared with anyone who doesn’t have a legitimate reason for needing them — even if they are authorized users of the system!
6. Determine Which Features are Necessary for Your Practice
Don’t just buy every feature available — it may not be worth the extra cost or time spent learning how to use them all. Determine what features will benefit your practice most and compare prices between vendors before deciding which system to buy.