How to Properly Protect Health Information

See also: Confidentiality in the Workplace

It is important for everyone to make sure that any health information they deal with is properly protected. As the medical field continues to grow and evolve, the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HIPAA is only going to become even more important. All health information is meant to be properly protected and this is the only way that people are going to have confidence in the healthcare system.

What are a few of the most important tips you need to keep in mind if you are wondering how to properly protect medical information? Take a look at a few key tips below, and do not hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help you.

1. Ensure All Information Is Encrypted

First, you need to make sure that all of your medical information has been properly encrypted. Data is typically encrypted when it is at either its origin or destination. On the other hand, data is not frequently encrypted when it is in transit from place to place. This is commonly when hackers will try to intercept the information and steal it. If you want to protect your information from being stolen, you should make sure that your data is properly encrypted during the full length of its journey. You may want to reach out to a software professional who can explain to you how to do that. That is where a strong health information management program can be helpful.

2. Encourage Proper Password Hygiene

There is a saying that your security is only as strong as its weakest link. Unfortunately, the weakest link is often those people who do not have a lot of experience with technology. Unfortunately some people may pretend to understand data security and password hygiene whereas in reality this is not the case. If you want to protect medical information, you should encourage strong password hygiene as a strong password always increases the security of any medical information.

This therefore means that you should encourage your employees to change their passwords from time to time. You also need to make sure that they use strong passwords that use a mixture of numbers, letters, and symbols. If you encourage strong password hygiene, you can significantly reduce the chances of someone hacking into your server.

3. Keep Your Medical Record Accurate

Experts are of the view that you, as a patient, must keep track of your medical record yourself even if your doctor is also keeping an electronic healthcare record. This is the basic right of a patient to use a personal health information service. They may also keep a written record of the medications or the medical services they have received so far. It has also been noted that sometimes doctors are also found guilty of fabricating the medical record information: they might do so in order to bill the insurance of a government health program. If this is the case, you may look into the issue by documenting your health information as a patient so that you are able to detect anything that may have been fabricated. This very thorough approach of a patient will also facilitate government investigators when they come along to look at providers’ data so that they can compare your record with the one they have been provided by the health providers.

4. Ensure You Have an Audit Trail

If the regulatory authorities come knocking, you need to make sure that you have a strong audit trail. What this means is that you need to know when people are accessing what information. When someone logs into a medical record, you need to be able to know who they are, when they did so, and where they logged in from. That way, if there are questions about who is accessing a specific medical record, you will be able to answer them relatively quickly. You must make sure that you have a software program that audits and keeps track of when people log into the system as this will make it much easier for you to keep an eye on what is happening with any confidential information.

5. Dispose of Old Equipment the Right Way

As the medical field continues to grow and evolve, new equipment is going to be released and required. There is nothing wrong with replacing your old equipment with new devices, but you need to make sure that you dispose of your old devices properly. For example, you do not simply want to take your computers, hard drives, and servers and throw them away as they will still have a lot of confidential information on them, even if that information might be outdated. Therefore, always make sure that you dispose of redundant equipment properly and safely. You need to properly wipe any data from all your devices before you throw them away, and you are probably better off recycling them instead of throwing them out.

6. Log Off When You Walk Away

Man logging off from a computer in a hospital.

Even though it might seem obvious, it is very important for you to log off when you walk away from a computer. There are too many people who simply get up and walk away from an open computer. You should not do this because anyone with access could sit down at the computer and access the medical records it contains. During the training process, encourage your employees to lock their computers when they walk away. There should be a shortcut for the device to lock it when you leave. Make sure you teach your employees how to use the shortcut, and monitor your employees to make sure they are logging off properly.

7. Ensure All Medical Information Is Properly Protected

In the end, these are just a few of the most important steps you need to remember if you are wondering how to properly protect health or other confidential information. If you do not properly protect the medical information with which you have been entrusted, you run the risk of facing sanctions. Furthermore, your patients and their families could lose confidence in you, which could make it difficult for you to keep your medical practice or hospital system afloat. Remember that this is not necessarily something that you need to do on your own. Do not hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help you.

Abil Altaf

About the Author

Adil Altaf loves to help others by sharing useful information and seeing how informed decision-making can change the world.