Healthcare providers must make data security a priority

Sep 24th, 2013 / Category: Managed File Transfer

The healthcare industry is currently undergoing a period of extreme transformation. The Affordable Care Act and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act introduce a number of policy requirements which healthcare providers must comply with to either receive incentives or avoid penalties.

One of the most significant aspects of these laws is their mandated meaningful use of digital documents in the form of electronic health records (EHRs). Organizations need to continue to shift from paper-based to digital records keeping systems in order to remain in compliance with these laws in the coming months.

Naturally, such a major change creates a number of challenges. Even though the move toward EHR systems has been ongoing for several years now, many healthcare providers have yet to fully achieve this level of digital reliance. And among the most significant issues which are currently emerging is the need for high-level data security.

To remain compliant while keeping patient information safe, healthcare providers should make data security a focus. Investing in secure file transfer solutions can play a key role in this regard.

Data safety
EHRs have numerous advantages over paper records. Most notably, they are far more readily accessible, allowing doctors, nurses and administrators to instantly view a patient's medical history, even if that individual has never been treated at that particular facility. In a paper-based system, these personnel would need to contact the regular care provider and have it scan and fax or email these records, assuming they were available. EHRs can therefore enable more accurate, safer patient care.

But this very advantage also carries a significant risk. After all, if healthcare data is more easily available to authorized personnel, it is also very possible that it is more available to non-authorized individuals.

Considering the nature of this information, a data breach for a hospital or other healthcare provider is a very serious matter. When organizations suffer such incidents, they receive a great deal of negative publicity. This can severely undermine patient trust in the institution, which in turn damages the healthcare provider's ability to treat individuals effectively. Additionally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to impose significant fines and other sanctions on those organizations that have failed to sufficiently protect patient data.

Securing data
Obviously, it is important for healthcare providers to focus on security as they continue to shift toward EHR systems. The question is how to best pursue this goal.

There are many components to a successful healthcare data security initiative. Secure data transfer is one critical aspect. With secure file transfer solutions in place, healthcare personnel can distribute and receive sensitive patient information quickly and easily, without putting that data at risk of loss or exposure while it is in transit.

By making these resources available to staff, hospitals can eliminate the incentive to engage in less secure mode of data sharing, thereby helping the organization to abide by regulatory standards without compromising the quality of care.