The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was implemented in 1996, and set strict standards for properly securing medical records. The internet was only beginning to become a force in the world when HIPAA went into effect, and its creators could not have imagined the kinds of security threats modern medical computer systems would face. Sadly the burden of upholding its protocols can fall quite heavily on hospitals and similar care providers.

It’s a serious issue. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there have been over 182,000 reported violations of HIPAA policy from April, 2003 to May, 2018: costing individual hospitals millions of dollars in many cases. With electronic medical records (EMR) now the norm in most organizations, the potential for security breaches has never been higher. Illegally acquired medical records are a hot item on the black market – even more than credit card numbers – making it vital to keep such records secure.  And HIPAA violations needn’t be so cloak-and-dagger. Anything from outdated systems to a simple bit of gossip about a patient’s medical status can lead to expensive violations.

Many potential HIPAA violations can be anticipated and prevented by implementing common-sense practices in your organization. Your medical computers themselves play a huge role in helping you stay secure, and with a little foresight, they can keep you firmly on top of the issue. Here are a few suggestions on how best to do that.

BYOD vs. Medical Grade Tablets

A lost or stolen device can be devastating, but the potential for trouble can extend beyond that. For example, many medical organizations have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, allowing personnel to use tablets and phones from home. On the surface, it seems like an effective cost-saving measure that overcomes many roadblocks. But it comes at a great price to the security of EMRs, and a single BYOD can undo the security of an entire system.

A dedicated set of medical grade tablets can easily circumvent the need for personnel to bring their own devices. These devices are set up and controlled by a facilities dedicated IT team, making them much more secure that personal devices. Tablets can also include security measures such as biometric fingerprint scanners and CAC readers to keep your system secure (as well as ancillary benefits that BYODs can’t offer, such as anti-microbial housings and IP65-certified front bezels to prevent the spread of infection). Not only does that eliminate the security concerns of a BYOD, but medical tablets are specifically designed for healthcare applications and often have a much more robust feature set.

Assuring Proper Security Access

Hospitals are busy places, and personnel often need to access medical PCs quickly. Lives could literally depend on it. But proper security measures can sometimes slow that down, and cutting corners to alleviate the delay can place those records at undue risk. Medical cart computers, and similar portable devices are often left in hallways unattended where individuals can simply walk off with them, and computers in patients’ rooms can’t be monitored 24/7. That puts administrators in an awkward position balancing the immediate needs of day-to-day operations with ongoing concerns over protecting sensitive data.

Limit access to your system to those with the proper credentials by using built-in security measures such as Imprivata’s SSO certified computers. It can create security profiles without coding – eliminating the need for complex and confusing passwords – and allow your staff access to needed records quickly without compromising security. Something as simple as an embedded privacy filter on the screen of an all-in-one computer can go a long way towards preventing someone from stealing patient with a camera or a glance at a record that is up on the screen.

Combating Cyber Attacks

Speaking of security measures, hacking remains a significant problem for medical systems, as does the use of malware and other cybernetic weapons. According to Verizon, over 70% of malware attacks involve ransomware, which encrypts your data and requires a fee or ransom to regain access. A recent ransomware attack against LabCorp demonstrates just how real and how devastating such methods can be.

With increased need for interoperability and more and more information being placed in electronic formats, the danger on this front is only likely to grow. Regular risk analysis and upgrades play a large role here. New software and enhanced technology are released every day, and sadly, the tactics of hackers and similar cybersecurity threats are constantly changing and upgrading as well.

While the right medical computer won’t eliminate all risk, it can go a long way towards mitigating your vulnerability. Multiple LAN ports can provide you with access to both the internet and an intranet. Intranets are typically much more difficult to hack from the outside, making patient data more secure. Intel wireless cards paired with vPro processors will also add an additional layer of security to any hardware deployment.

 

HIPAA regulations are in place to protect patients, and no hospital wants to compromise the privacy and trust of those in their care.Many potential HIPAA violations can be anticipated and prevented by implementing common-sense practices in your organization. That said, medical services have patients to care for and facilities to maintain. Training and accounting for HIPAA requirements might constitute one task too many for a staff that has plenty to do as it is. You need to use any advantage you can – especially with your computer system – to alleviate the burden of HIPAA compliance on your team members. For more information on how Cybernet’s medical grade computers can help you stay HIPAA compliant you can contact us here.