Securing Patient Data in a Changing Technology Landscape

Guest post by Michael Howard, worldwide security practice lead, managed services, printing and personal systems group, HP.

Michael Howard
Michael Howard

As the information technology landscape continues to rapidly evolve, healthcare providers increasingly find themselves faced with new challenges on how to best serve their patients and protect their privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which introduced privacy and security regulations in 1996 for providers that use electronic transmission of data, made securing patient data a prominent issue.

If you are skeptical about potential costs associated with implementing a new security strategy in your office, consider this startling fact: According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost per incident of corporate information theft is $5.5 million1. That number alone should be reason enough for providers to consider upgrading their security protocols. While computers and servers are often the first pieces of technology to be secured within the IT infrastructure, paper documents and printers are often overlooked. With the extensive amount of security offerings available, IT managers can have greater confidence that patient records remain safe. Below are the top three ways that healthcare providers can better secure their print infrastructure:

Store medical records in the cloud

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that paper still accounts for a large percentage of HIPAA breaches. Between Jan. 1, 2011 through April 15, 2014, 500 patient data breaches have been reported with 203 related to paper (more than 40 percent)2. One easy way to reduce the likelihood of a paper breach – and to save time spent shuttling from one file cabinet to another – is to transfer your hard copy medical records to an electronic health record (EHR) format and store them in the cloud. Securing the paper to digital data process can be a less painful process by implementing a software solution that makes it easy for users to scan documents, convert them to electronic files and then distribute them to predetermined destinations. Not only will you simplify the data storage and retrieval process, but you will also save office space by reducing the need for file cabinets and limit excess paper.

As many healthcare providers are in the process of transitioning from paper to EHRs, it is important to be well informed on what happens to your data once it enters the cloud. Most cloud-based solutions offer bank-grade encryption for data transfer, in addition to highly protected data centers. By saving your EHRs to the cloud, you will be able to update patient records in real-time and reference past prescriptions and treatment plans while in the room with your patient. This promotes more personalized and convenient care and helps reduce duplications and inaccuracies.

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