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Keeping Patient Data Secure


All sorts of companies collect and maintain substantial personal information regarding their clients, such as social security numbers, bank account and credit card information, home and business addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses, among other items. Because hacking methods are becomingly increasingly sophisticated and most savvy hackers tend to target these precise pieces of information in the hopes of exploiting it for pecuniary gain, it is more important than ever for companies to take serious precautions when it comes to safeguarding client data.

This is particularly true for the healthcare sector. More and more health care providers are transitioning to electronic record keeping, including hospitals, private medical offices, and pharmacies, as well as their vendors and intermediaries and many other related health care businesses. Obviously, it is important for a company's office management purposes to store medical records electronically, but many patients are beginning to demand the convenience of electronic record-keeping as well. Consumers have become accustomed to instantly accessing and managing most of their personal information online (particularly with respect to financial matters such as bank account balances, credit card statements, tax information, and mortgage documents), so it isn't surprising that most are expecting to have online access to their health care records now too.

Because of this massive shift in preferences and demand, there are a plethora of mobile phone applications and online health portals cropping up that offer these services. Health care providers that want to remain afloat and grow have to keep up with their competitors by offering some sort of online platform. Unfortunately, this necessary step of streamlining the storage of patient data brings along its own set of challenges, primarily with respect to defending private data against unwanted exposure. Until recently, data breaches tended to focus on obtaining debit and credit card numbers or direct access to other types of funds. Now, however, there is growing concern that criminals are deliberately going after patient data, which isn't terribly surprising given the scope of data they can likely attain.

There are some important security measures that any health care provider utilizing an online application or network can implement to mitigate the likelihood of patient data succumbing to a breach. It is strongly recommended that electronic health records be housed in a highly secure repository that has advanced data encryption and stringent password standards such as two-factor authentication. In addition, providers should use a service that employs permissions-based roles, so that access privileges are assigned to the appropriate staff and personnel. Plus, the data provider selected should offer audit trails to track all activity in the system. This allows companies to monitor for external intrusions as well as possible inappropriate actions that could occur internally, and it allows for an easier periodic review process.

Of course, in addition to investing in a secure health records management service, health care providers must remain apprised of HIPAA rules and regulations and rigorously train staff accordingly. The key is to be proactive and vigilant to ensure adequate safekeeping of valuable patient data.


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