The Importance of Secure Communications in the Healthcare Industry

Secure Communications
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Communication in the healthcare industry is critical to providing the best patient care. Privacy and security of information can be hard to maintain without the correct technologies in place. There have been some costly data breaches in the history of the healthcare industry, exposing the personal information of millions of patients.

The lack of secure communications is becoming a significant issue in the healthcare industry, affecting patients and healthcare providers alike. It can lead to various problems, including compromised, incorrect, or stolen patient data. Healthcare organizations must install more secure communications systems and protocols.

With a wide range of internet technologies being used for healthcare communications, it is important to secure your organization’s data.

HIPAA Compliant Communication in Healthcare

The government has rules and laws in place to govern communications and data transfers in the healthcare industry. One such prominent rule is HIPAA compliance. 

Every business in the healthcare industry must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This includes utilizing the help of a HIPAA compliant call center when outsourcing customer service, and any other roles that follow these guidelines. This federal law has put national standards in place to protect the sensitive information of patients.

Confidentiality is one of the most critical aspects of medical care. No one should ever request this information from you unless they have permission to know it.

If you are in the healthcare industry, it is necessary to be aware of the core rules of this federal law and understand the cost of HIPAA violations. The Privacy rule of HIPAA is meant to give patients more control over their medical records. Violating these standards can cost your business or organization anywhere from $100 – $1.5 million per year!

Identifying and Understanding PHI in Communications

The healthcare industry terms everything from your doctor’s name to your diagnosis and medical history as Protected Health Information (PHI). This type of data is considered sensitive and must be kept private.

Regarding PHI, there are two main categories:

  • Electronic
  • Paper 

Electronic PHI includes any electronic record created or received by a covered entity. Some examples include emails and text messages sent between doctors’ offices and patients. 

PHI on paper is any handwritten or printed document that contains information about you or your treatment in an office setting.

The federal government strictly regulates PHI in the healthcare industry. If you handle PHI, treat it carefully and keep it confidential. The most common type of data breaches and security fails in communication include:

  • Unauthorized Access
  • Improper Disposal
  • Impermissible Disclosure
  • Failure to perform an organizational – wide risk assessment
  • Failure to manage security risks
  • Failure to enter into a Business Associate Agreement

Methods to Secure Healthcare Information 

The Healthcare industry employs various technologies for messaging and communication with patients and between healthcare professionals. There are currently several different types of messaging systems used in healthcare:

  • Email
  • Text messages
  • Instant messaging apps like Slack or HipChat
  • Phone calls
  • Video calls and consultations

Each system has its own set of risks and benefits. Email is safer than SMS text messages because it allows you to efficiently send large amounts of data. But, both email and SMS text messages can be intercepted by hackers.

Security does not stop with only messages going out from healthcare facilities but healthcare facilities need to be sure to take a look at their medical office answering service, too.

To ensure that messages both incoming and outgoing are safe and secure, healthcare organizations must have a way to verify them. Only authorized users must send and receive messages. Here are some ways to keep your healthcare information secure:

1) Encrypt data on hard drives and other devices. It will prevent unauthorized access to the information in case of theft or loss.

2) Keep passwords complex and change them at least once every 90 days. It will help prevent unauthorized users from accessing your systems by guessing passwords. 

3) Use two-factor authentication wherever possible. It will be the same as logging into banking accounts. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a password. Along with this is something else, like a code sent to your cell phone before granting access. It can be very effective against hackers. They will try to access it using different combinations until they find the correct one!

Best Practices for Healthcare Providers to Protect the Confidentiality of their Communications.

Healthcare providers must often share sensitive patient information with third parties. Third parties are insurance companies and billing services. Healthcare providers should be aware of how to protect confidentiality.

This document describes best practices for protecting the confidentiality of electronic communications. It includes recommendations on reducing the risks associated with healthcare provider-related electronic communications. It also provides an overview of several tools to help achieve this goal.

Healthcare providers must be aware that security threats can risk patient information. It can continue to expand its use of technology. Healthcare providers should consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Protect the network by educating staff members and encrypting portable devices.
  • Educate staff members about the importance of protecting patient data. It includes understanding how to spot phishing scams. It aims to trick users into providing personal information or credentials to hackers.
  • Encrypt portable devices such as laptops and tablets. Ensure the protection of Patient data from unauthorized access. It would be an issue, especially if a patient lost the device.
  • Secure wireless networks by using vital encryption keys. Ensure the correct configuration of wireless access points.
  • Have physical security controls such as locking doors. It includes locking boxes and cabinets that have paper documents. Also, you must restrict access based on badge use.
  • Write a mobile device policy. It contains details of your allowed devices on the network. It should also address whether there are any restrictions for each type of device.

Guidelines for Patients to Help Safeguard their Privacy

When you are in the hospital, you have certain rights. You have the right to know that your medical records are confidential. You may only disclose it to healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are the ones who need this information to provide your treatment.

You have the right to know how healthcare professionals will use your data. You should see if they will share it and with whom. You have a right to request restrictions on the use or disclosure of your data. It can be your data for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations.

It is important to remember that your medical records are private. It will help if you keep it a secret from anyone outside your care team. We have developed this list of guidelines to help you safeguard your privacy.

1) Your medical records are private. Please do not share your medical information with anyone outside the care team. Ask medical staff first before doing anything.

2) Your healthcare representatives may include your physician, nurse practitioner, or other practitioners. It includes speech-language pathologists, social workers, and dietitians. They provide services for you within the hospital or through our outpatient center.

3) You can ask someone from our organization to review your records and ensure they are accurate. Do you want someone from outside our organization to review your documents? Don’t hesitate to contact us first. We will help ensure your privacy protection during this process.

In order to ensure the privacy and security of your patient’s information, the following guidelines are recommended:

1. Encourage patients to use the secure messaging app. You can do this by sending out a notification every time a new message is sent or received. You can also send messages to patients who have not signed up for the secure messaging app, encouraging them to sign up.

2. Make sure that all staff members know how to use the secure messaging app. They should be trained on how to use it, as well as on how important it is that they use it.

3. Use the secure messaging app to communicate with patients about their health records. Any other sensitive information that needs to be communicated securely.

4. Make sure that all messages are sent from a device that meets security requirements. 

And with this information at their fingertips, doctors can spend more time treating patients instead of juggling paperwork! That means happier doctors, nurses, patients, and more satisfied customers.

Final Thoughts

To maintain confidentiality, protect patient information, and improve patient satisfaction, secure communication is a must in healthcare.

The bottom line is that your healthcare provider must be vested in protecting your private information. As health data breaches become more common, it is critical to know how to safeguard your information when communicating with your doctor or other healthcare providers. The healthcare industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world. With information being so sensitive, it’s essential to understand how to protect your data adequately.

In addition to reducing the risk of a breach of patient information, using secure communications systems can also help improve overall efficiency within a healthcare organization. 

Everyone in this industry needs to understand how HIPAA compliance affects them and their patients and what they can do to ensure compliance with all regulations.

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