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Protecting Patient Confidentiality

patient record confidentiality

Protecting Patient Confidentiality

Do you know what security threats your medical practice faces? It’s estimated that around 83% of doctor’s practices are hacked by cybercriminals every year. While the prevalence of medical practice cyber attacks is concerning, you can take steps to protect your practice and your patients’ privacy. 

 

Why are patient records being stolen?

You might wonder why anyone would bother stealing your patients’ medical records. Are blood pressure trends valuable demographic data? While insurance companies may want to know the details of your patients’ weight, blood pressure, and smoking habits, cybercriminals want your patients’ personal information and insurance details so they can file fraudulent insurance claims.

 

A complete medical record can sell for $1000 or more on the darknet. In addition to information that enables insurance fraud, medical records also include all the details needed for identity theft. 

 

Common types of cybercrime

Unfortunately, medical practices are vulnerable to common classifications of cyberattacks, including:

 

  • Phishing
  • Malware infections
  • Improper electronic personal health information access
  • Network breaches
  • Ransomware attacks

 

A troubling common factor across medical practice cyberattacks is that, in many cases, these crimes could have been prevented with some necessary security measures aimed at HIPAA compliance.  

 

Additional consequences of data breaches

Your practice is legally obligated to protect the private information of your patients, and there are steep fines for data breaches. Your practice could be shut down for days while you sort the consequences of the attack. Your patients could move to other practices when they learn about the attack.

 

Protect your patients’ privacy

Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your patients’ privacy as well as other data held by your practice. 

 

Create a privacy policy

Privacy policies don’t have to be complicated. In fact, the best strategies feel like common sense. You need to make sure that every member of your team knows the policy and how it applies to their jobs. This includes using strong passwords, keeping a clear desk, and making sure any hard copies of patient information are thoroughly shredded or locked in files. 

 

Use secure systems

When you choose an EHR/EMR program, make sure it adheres to the most current security standards. All patient data should be encrypted and password protected. You may also want to review what data you collect and store.

 

Implement IT security best practices

Some of the first steps you can take to ensure your practice adheres to IT security best practices include:

 

  • Encrypting all hardware including all laptops, tablets, and practice smartphones
  • Implement a policy that all passwords must contain a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols
  • Never share passwords
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Use current antivirus programs and update them regularly
  • Use separate WiFi networks for your practice and your patients

Ensure your partners are also committed to the security

When you enter into a partnership with another organization, whether its a supplier or a service provider, make sure they also follow the same strict security protocols in place at your practice. If your partners have access to any sensitive data, it’s imperative that they also follow every rule to protect your patients’ privacy.

 

For example, Ferndale Road is committed to protecting sensitive data. Our ePaper Road program is encrypted and uses special authentication programming to ensure that any patient record request is from an authorized person before retrieving the patient file.