How Are You Storing Your Sensitive Data? Are You Compliant with HIPAA Requirements?

The year 2021 saw a rapid increase in cyber-attacks on healthcare infrastructure, causing roughly about 44,993,618 records are being stolen or exposed. Each breached health record can be sold on a black market or darknet anywhere from $1 to $1000, making it one of the most valuable assets.

Therefore, protecting health information, securing healthcare data, and creating disaster recovery plans have become important lately – Because such a breach can not only harm your reputation but can cause – Serious penalties, gaps in healthcare services due to loss of trust, and patient turnover. This blog features important aspects of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and portrays how Data Loss Prevention solution arrangement can help healthcare associations successfully address such issues.

One of the most challenging parts of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the comprehension of how to store your sensitive data. It is partly because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety (HHS) has not given a specific set of HIPAA informational data storage requirements that organizations need to follow. Instead, the different HIPAA rules impact data storage somehow.

Protecting sensitive data is a top priority for almost all industries, but when it comes to the healthcare industry, the regulation and compliance necessities that are in place require stringent data protection measures.

For healthcare organizations such as – hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, urgent care, and as such – ensuring that patients’ healthcare information stays private is not just an ethical issue; but a legal one as well. HIPAA provides clear standards for the storage and sharing of healthcare-related data. Any association that handles health records is required to be compliant. If you are dealing with the collection, storage, and or potential transmission of Protected health information (PHI), subsequently, your database needs to remain compliant with the HIPAA.

Protecting Your Sensitive Data with HIPAA Database

The HIPAA Security rule requires three types of protections: Administrative, Physical, and technical protection.

Current applications and storage mediums are the first and foremost database driven. PHI usually gets stored in database tables, being compliant with HIPAA database and increasing the safety and security of PHI requirements to be at the highest point of the plan for healthcare organizations and business entities with BAA accreditation.

A cyberattack on your healthcare database cannot just lead to critical loss of revenue and reputation loss, but it also draws hefty fines for being non-compliant with HITECH requirements or if the breaching could not be justified with reasonable safeguards.

Best Protection Practices with PHI

Risk Assessment Plan

Regular risk assessments can assist with recognizing vulnerabilities in your association’s information security, employee education gaps, lapses, and potential traps in the security coverage of business associates and vendors, also other areas of concern.

Internal risk evaluations conducted periodically can help you crack potential weaknesses that might prompt the database and the PHI it consists of being uncovered and exposed. Proactively identifying and mitigating potential vulnerabilities recognized through risk evaluations can help you stay away from the impact of information breaches and keep your HIPAA database secure moving forward.

Per HITECH rule, each organization storing healthcare data is required to perform security risk analysis at least once a year. The government provides a free tool to perform self-audit and complete the required steps for risk adjustment. You can find the free tool here: https://www.healthit.gov/topic/privacy-security-and-hipaa/security-risk-assessment-tool

Encryption of Data

Whether with the database or within transit, complete encryption of PHI is an unquestionable requirement to ensure data safety so that malicious files cannot bypass the database controls and retrieve information directly. Even in the worst cases of breach, database encryption makes sure that the PHI stays unintelligible.  

If your health organization uses Windows computers, Microsoft offers a free Bitlocker encryption tool with Windows 10 pro-licensed product.

 

Configure Data Controls

Data control configurations make sure that any malicious file that endangers the safety of the healthcare database cab be flagged and blocked at the same time. Data controls incorporate – limiting access controls, review logging details, authentication, and approval.

The more access to the information you assigned – the more you’re at risk for a data breach. Access controls involve configuring user authentication; reviewing logging details refers to monitoring the user login credentials, reading, writing, or editing a different log file to comply with the HIPAA regulations. Authentication and approval deal with characterizing who will have access to a sensitive database and assigning suitable roles and rights to the users.

 

It is recommended that data control endpoints should be reviewed at least monthly and then as needed or upon change to prevent any adverse event.

 

Implement BAAs

Simply assuring in-house compliance to HIPAA standards are not enough. ‘To safeguard your HIPAA database.’ You are required to carefully access HIPAA compliance of business associates also make sure that you sign Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) for every single one of the vendors who are engaged either in the collection, transmission, or storage of healthcare data.

BAAs are a legal type of contract that should be set up between groups that utilize, transmit, receive, or exchange PHI. The BAAs are required between groups or entities that intend to share PHI before any PHI is collected or shared. BAAs executed after the PHI is exchanged are considered a remedy to an unintentional exposure rather than a precautionary safeguard.

 

Create a Data Recovery Plan

HIPAA recommends that organizations create backup and disaster recovery plans in case of a power or service outage. Cyberattacks or Natural Calamities can hamper the accessibility of information. Therefore, having secured backups are required as per the HIPAA guidelines for continued business operations and patient care.

The backup data likewise be completely encrypted to comply with HIPAA standards. Backup data must be checked, verified, and tested routinely. Utilizing the 3-2-1 rule is the guiding principle of data backup and disaster recovery. According to the rule, to have a reliable, redundant backup and an effective disaster recovery solution, you must have three copies of your data, on two forms of media, with one copy located offsite.

Leading tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft provided an easy option for data backup with full customization based on your needs and budget.

Plan for Data Dumping

The prolonged storage of protected data in your system increases the criticalness of regulations. In the U.S., there are more than 150 state and federal regulations that impact the retention of data. The guidelines and duration for which you require to retain healthcare information vary depending upon the type of data you are saving.

When the specified duration of data storage is over, you need to implement a setup to securely erase your database and discard files and media safely when no longer required. Data should be deleted as per – NIST requirements is a must-have strategic plan for data disposal.

A Dynamic Plan is Required

As the healthcare industry continues to advance, threats related to healthcare data will keep on rising. So, a dynamic approach should be considered while planning and implementing a data protection plan.

Regulations needed for ensuring the safety and protection of HIPAA databases, healthcare associations that adopt a dynamic approach to carry out best practices for healthcare security would be in the best place to ensure compliance and at lower risk of experiencing filthy data breaches.

PMTT, a comprehensive IT solution provider since 2006, has skills, infrastructure, and tools to support and protect your organization against ransomware threats. PMTT can:

  1. Secure the network through filtering, firewall, and encrypting the connections
  2. Encrypt your servers, databases, and computers
  3. Perform risk audits and security risk analysis to ensure compliance and strengthen security.
  4. Create and Manage Backups
  5. Work alongside to lower risk of breaches with a dynamic approach

Learn more about how PMTT can keep your information HIPAA-compliant? 

Contact Us here

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