Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Affordability Act (HIPAA) has given healthcare providers plenty of sleepless nights since it launched in 1996. Technology, meanwhile, has been both contributing to the problem and helping to address it. Several different technologies have emerged to have an impact on HIPAA compliance, and these seven in particular have delivered some of the biggest impact.
What Technologies Have Had the Greatest Impact in HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA compliance has forced many to reconsider the very nature of their networks. Both wired and wireless networks face stronger security scrutiny as considerations ranging from Wi-Fi access to router location and protection emerge. Some have even gone so far as to establish wholly separate networks specifically for protected health information (PHI). This may seem like overkill, but in terms of HIPAA compliance, is an excellent step forward.
Others leave the files on the same network, but address issues of HIPAA compliance with firewalls and encryption. Firewalls represent perimeter defense—attempting to keep unauthorized users out—and encryption addresses what happens when perimeter defense fails.
The rise of mobile devices has meant many new opportunities for healthcare. From doctors able to carry all their patients' files in a tablet to nurses able to communicate with other stations on the fly, mobile is a growing part of healthcare. For HIPAA compliance, however, mobile poses several new potential violations. Therefore, some healthcare operations remain compliant by issuing devices that can be remotely locked, wiped, and tracked should they ever leave the premises. Others work to ban personal devices on premises, which can be helpful in protecting against inadvertently transmitting malware into a system.
Basic office equipment.
“Basic office equipment” is an umbrella term for several potential HIPAA violations. A computer monitor that can be viewed by unauthorized parties, for example, is seldom considered as a potential HIPAA violation. Consider also anything that interacts with paper. Copiers, scanners, and even printers all have the potential to stage HIPAA violations of securing documents. Any of these items that has an internal hard drive for storing data must be secured, and if there are USB ports on hand to connect the devices, these need to be blocked accordingly.
Consider the impact of leaving paper documents that should be secured in contact with these devices; HIPAA is just as violated whether someone makes an unauthorized copy or simply takes the original left on a scanning surface.
Username / password security schemes.
The username / password combination has served to protect systems from email to complete systems for years. Yet here, there are potential HIPAA compliance issues. Ensure that no login data is shared to improve security to the fullest and tie levels of access into those login credentials. Logins should connect to the information that's needed to do the job, and no other. Plus, with properly-tiered login schemes, it becomes possible to trace attempts to access information to the individual user and audit who has access to what. This works well in maintaining HIPAA compliance.
Some here may want to consider the use of biometric access control instead. If systems only respond to the head nurse's thumbprint or a particular doctor's iris scan, the level of protection increases accordingly.
Data storage is the most obvious and easiest source of HIPAA compliance operations. Since data storage is the primary storage point for PHI, it becomes the most important point to protect. Using both encryption and strong firewall measures will go a long way to ensuring HIPAA compliance, but it won't be enough by itself. Not only must unauthorized access be prevented, authorized access must be controlled. This relates back to the earlier points about username / password combinations.
While blockchain for many means cryptocurrency, for healthcare providers, it can mean a greater push on HIPAA compliance. Blockchain represents a means to transmit data safely, securely, and quickly by encrypting data in packets that can only be encrypted by a key. The key and the packets can be sent at the same time—which is how cryptocurrency is traded—thus making the resulting information safely transferred. If patients who owned their information generated their own security keys, it would be as if each patient's data had its own password protection.
Email is one of the oldest parts of IT yet still most used. Able to transfer information from one user to another with great speed, its versatility and ease of use stands out. It's also a substantial data storage problem waiting to happen, so here, to ensure HIPAA compliance, healthcare operations have to be ready. Some might choose to use hosted email systems; let the host figure out HIPAA compliance methods. That's a worthwhile option but it requires the user to make sure the provider is compliant. Others might turn to secured email on premises, but this requires the user to carry out compliance measures themselves.
How to Get Technology on Your Side in HIPAA Compliance
Technology is vital to the everyday operations of almost any firm. Healthcare is no different here, despite the flood of regulations it operates under. So it becomes crucial, therefore, to get technology on your side. The best way to do that is with expert help like you'll find with us at UTG. We have experience in security, compliance, network infrastructure, and a range of other fronts you'll need to make the most of technology in healthcare. Don't leave your HIPAA compliance to chance; reach out to us to get started.