HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was introduced in 1996 as legislation to protect patients with proper handling of their PHI (Protected Health Information). The main intention of this act was to provide security and data privacy to the patients. The time when this act was passed was the age of records on paper, and the security measures required in those days were very much different from those required today because there is a big difference in the way patient records are maintained these days.
While more than 2 decades have passed since the introduction of this legislation, the way we now store, transfer and access records has drastically changed. Due to incredible technological advancements and changes made over all these years, there is a drastic need to move beyond HIPAA and change the way we protect and handle patients’ health records. But unfortunately, there have been no regulatory changes with HIPAA, even in the digital age we are living in now. Let’s see why there is an urgent need to move beyond HIPAA.
The Threat of Hacking
The incidences of patient records getting hacked are increasing significantly over the last few years, leading to healthcare breaches and hacks. There are several reasons why hackers find it very easy to hack your health records. Some of them are:
- Hackers know that the healthcare industry has the least to do with IT training and security systems, and their records are most vulnerable to theft and hacking. Due to poor IT resources, the healthcare industry often suffers from poor security, outdated system, no firewall, no strong anti-virus system, and others. Apart from that, employees are able to only enter the information in the database, but they are not trained enough to identify or handle any malicious cybercriminal’s attempt to gain access to their confidential information.
- PHI of a patient can bring huge profits for cybercriminals. For instance, if a hacker steals someone’s credit card information, the owner may block the card quickly and the information they get becomes useless many times. But when it comes to PHI, hacking goes unnoticed for long periods of time, and it cannot be changed like your credit card PIN, such as your birth date, health details, etc.
- Since the healthcare industry is strongly connected with technological networks, a small attack on a single system can lead to hacking of an entire organization’s information. Once they steal your data, they ask you to pay a ransom and gain access to your data. If you ignore, you will lose all your patient’s data that you can’t afford.
Increased Dependence on Information Technology
In today’s digital age, you will rarely find a healthcare provider whose system still completely relies upon paper records. Today, both doctors, as well as the patients, are giving preference to EMRs or electronic medical records, as they are easy to share and store, thereby enabling easy access and communication. However, unfortunately, with all these facilities there are some cons as well. It is easy to peek into EMRs for hackers, and HIPAA has made almost no progress so far in addressing this serious problem.
Issue with Cybersecurity
Since HIPAA has now become outdated, it becomes imperative to protect patient’s data from cybercrime. There is a dire need for some major updating in the HIPAA that is enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services and Office for Civil Rights. But sadly, this issue of cybersecurity is still lying ignored by these bodies. With increasing incidences of cyberthreats in the healthcare industry, the need to address the issue with cybersecurity becomes all the more important.
Ways to Fix This and Move Beyond HIPAA
While authorities are not releasing any regulation in the field in the near future, here are a few ways to stay secured and prevent cyberthreat:
- Keep an eye on the patient data you are entering in your system. Remember, criminals and hackers, seek not just final information but other details that can bring them larger profits, such as their birth date, SSN, and others. If you enter PHI of your patients, have a look at your records and find out the extent of damage that theft of these details can cause to you and to your patients.
- Don’t leave data recorded on your systems vulnerable. Criminals may launch serious attacks against you, your patients, and even your organization, and you should do everything to keep your records safe, such as installing firewalls, anti-virus, etc.
- Make sure that your employees know that they are handling confidential data of your patients, and they should be trained to protect PHI, report data breach, spot phishing attempts, and identify hacks.
At SepStream®, we take full responsibility for protecting our patient data and use ethical ways to collect and use it. Our team members are trained to safeguard the saved data and identify any breach as and when it occurs. We offer the latest technological tools and equipment to enhance the healthcare system and improve security in your organization.