We cannot talk about information security without talking about HIPAA. The information security standard has been governing how information is managed in the healthcare industry since 1996. Considering how sensitive patients’ information and personal details are—and the growing number of cyberattacks targeting healthcare institutions—the HIPAA Security Rule is considered to be among the most extensive across the globe.
Don’t get me wrong—HIPAA compliance is far from enough in terms of data protection. As with other compliance standards, the HIPAA Security Rule is only meant to set a standard and define best practices for the healthcare industry to follow. A lot of healthcare institutions go one or two steps further in order to fully protect the safety of their patients’ information.
That said, it is a set of standards that need to be followed if you want to offer services to health service providers. The HIPAA Security Rule can be divided into three main categories, and we are going to discuss them in this article.
The HIPAA Security Rule, a part of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, governs how information needs to be protected, especially information related to patients and healthcare providers. In order to enforce maximum data protection, the HIPAA security rules’ first safeguard is technical safeguards.
This is the part of the standards that govern how data is acquired, managed, and maintained. Electronic protected health information or ePHI must be handled in accordance with these technical safeguards for a service provider to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule. The technical safeguards are:
As you can see, these technical safeguards are put in place mainly to ensure the security of ePHI and sensitive data being stored in electronic healthcare management systems. It also protects data during transmission and use.
What’s interesting is how the HIPAA Security Rule also governs the physical aspect of ePHI and healthcare information systems. Not many information security standards go as deep as HIPAA when it comes to maintaining the physical security of information.
The physical facility used to store ePHI needs to have sufficient security measures. Only authorized personnel are allowed access to the hardware and terminals connected to the healthcare information systems. Unauthorized access is considered a serious violation of the HIPAA standard.
Logging is also a part of the physical safeguard. Access to terminals and servers must be logged in detail to prevent unauthorized access and allow for an easy audit of the secure facility. Logging on a physical level helps the entire system remain safe.
There is also the need for secure devices and terminals, including secure tablets that are now used by medical personnel. It is up to the healthcare service providers to maintain a secure network across their facilities.
To complete the equation, policies for hardware disposal and the termination of a healthcare information system must also be put in place. Improper hardware disposal may lead to the recovery of ePHI and other sensitive information by unauthorized personnel.
Administrative safeguards tie everything together. With the system and the physical location closely protected, data management becomes the last piece of the puzzle. For better administration of data and information, HIPAA defines five safeguards that need to be followed:
The HIPAA Security Rule and its standards are amongst the most comprehensive security best practices to follow, as well as being amongst the most crucial to realize. Understandably so when you think about how sensitive health-related information can be—and given how valuable such data is on the black market. For everyone operating in the healthcare industry, compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule is a must.
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