Challenges of protecting medical and health data in the modern world

<![CDATA[The recent years have seen a precipitation in healthcare data breaches across America. If statistics are any indicator, then it would be relevant to know that health record data of more than 29 million individuals was compromised between 2010 and 2013.

Most of this data was leaked from stolen laptops, pen drives or thumb drives and lost/stolen paper records. The situation is alarming and all the healthcare centers must take actions to remedy the problem at hand. Here let us have a look at the problem.

Cloud computing

female holding a cloud

This technology has the benefit of freedom of carrying around the data physically. Further, the doctor can retrieve the data from cloud computing when needed. In this case, the data is secured with on an off-site third party server. It is advantageous but not without security concerns. Problem lies in selection of reliable service providers, cloud models and services based on security and backup parameters.

Tips to protect medical data

  1. Privacy of online records

woman typing on keyboard

Professional data hack is one side of the problem as the lax observance of policies and procedures on the part of the staff enables the hackers to breach through the security regimes of the health care centre and lay hands on the precious data. In this adverse scenario and with increasing digitalization of the medical records, prudence lies in filing in the gaps and reinforcing the security regimes in e-records.

It is not a tough nut to crack. All that it needs is proper training and education of the related managing team. A good anti-virus and encryption software are two vital things that can greatly enhance the online security scenario of the health centre. Password-protect all the data and do not make use of free wireless and hotspots to access the online data.

Physical security

Closeup portrait of a happy young doctor sitting on the sofa with folder

Despite the increasing dependence on e-records, most of the security breaches happen on physical data records. The patient related files and documents lost/stolen/ carelessly discarded or handled are the prime factors for this type of security breach. The healthcare centre should ensure that these documents are stored in and guarded properly.

No relevant paper should find its way into paper bins. The information contained in these documents may not be that of the patients but they can provide the hacker with vital clues to the in house situation. Do not share in-house vital information with unauthorized people. Physical loss also means loss of computers and e-hardware that contains e-records. Therefore, trust area of security assessment and coverage should be physical.

Be honest with the patients

Analyzing x-ray

If despite all these measures the data of the patients is lost/breached/compromised, then the best alternative to the health care centre authorities is to own up that such a thing has happened and inform the patients about it. This candidness should be backed with a damage control exercise to inform and educate the concerned persons of the severity of the problem and what the centre is doing against it.

With these measures, the health care centers can mitigate and even eliminate the problem of theft of patient’s information. Remember that good security comes for a price and therefore be willing to invest in it.]]>

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