The federal mandate to switch to electronic health records has revolutionized the healthcare industry in terms of how care is delivered and compensated. This mandate also concurs with HIPAA law, which requires all healthcare organizations to protect patient information, privacy, and confidentiality. The EHR is a safe and secure method of storing and sharing patient health information. In fact, most EHR systems have robust security features designed to protect patient privacy and prevent data breaches.
Most EHRs include security features by default. Let us now discuss some of the strong security features that you should look for in EHRs in order to protect against data breaches.
- Password protection: A secure EHR patient portal requires a password to access the system. Patients will be required to provide their password while logging in initially and also when their session has expired due to inactivity. They should also be encouraged to set a perfect alphanumeric password as they are difficult to guess or crack. Passwords should also be changed at regular intervals. For added protection, you can have a verification code sent to their email or phone. To ensure an extra layer of protection, you can add a security question to recognize the user. Some EHRs support biometrics, a perfect authentication method where a fingerprint or retinal scan may be required to confirm the identity of the user.
- Data encryption: EHRs can be protected with encryption methods to ensure that patient health information is safeguarded against unauthorized access. When your patient’s data is encrypted, no one can read or understand it except the person who has the secret code to it. This ensures transmitting patient data like test results and diagnostic reports in a secure manner. Furthermore, encrypting sensitive data helps to mitigate damage in the event of loss or theft.
- Audit activity: Audit trail is a fool proof method to track all the activities within the EHR system. You get to see who has logged in and out, modified or removed any records, or printed any health information. An EHR can be set up to send email/SMS notifications when patients log into their portal. This gives them a chance to report in case they didn’t access it. Regular audits give a clear picture of how healthcare providers handle patient data.
- Role-based access privileges: This method provides access to the EHR based on the role one assumes in the healthcare organization. For e.g., a receptionist can have access only to basic information like address, age, gender, etc., while a nurse is entitled to access patient information that is needed to discharge her duties as a nurse.
- Confirm industry certification: Make sure that you opt for an ONC-ATCB- certified and compliant EHR that is armed with features to protect patient data against breaches. This basically implies that the EHR software should successfully pass the three criteria – functionality, interoperability, and security in order to be certified.
- HIPAA compliance: The EHR system implemented should comply with all the requirements of HIPAA to protect patient data stored in it. However, this doesn’t mean that healthcare practice as a whole is also compliant with HIPAA security protocols. This means that every healthcare practice is accountable for protecting sensitive patient data, even though the EHR vendor insists that they need not worry about HIPAA regulations. This helps to avoid costly fines in case of any data breach.
With the number of healthcare data breaches increasing every year, it is the responsibility of healthcare providers to protect and secure patient information. So, make sure your EHR security is the best-in-class. Look for programs that come with the above discussed robust, intrinsic features. This greatly helps to protect patient privacy and prevent data breaches.