Treating patients is our biggest concern, right? That’s why we became therapists. But what’s equally important is ensuring our patients’ privacy and security. Sophisticated cyber attacks on patient information and their medical records are increasing at an alarming rate, and it’s up to private practice owners to do our best to secure their precious data.
Furthermore, HIPAA regulations are serious, and sanctions for violations can be severe, affecting not only the patient but the finances and reputation of the practice itself. To help you avoid these security risks, I’ve compiled four ways to add a bit more protection to your practice and ensure patient privacy:
1. Go Electronic
As much buzz as there has been in recent years about the security and privacy of electronic information, the truth of the matter is that paper documents are MORE susceptible to loss, theft, and damage than their electronic counterparts. The security of protected health information (PHI) has evolved over many years, and many now argue, myself included, that today’s standards for encryption, storage, and transfer of PHI is much better than can be achieved in the paper world. Look into a HIPAA compliant service that can both store your electronic documents and offer security features that will protect it.
2. Standardize Training of Your Staff
Putting all staff through standard HIPAA training is as easy as signing all incoming team members up for online training, followed by clinic-specific training within the walls of your clinic. It’s vital that staff go through HIPAA training annually, as they will be frequently handling patient PHI – this is an investment every practice should implement to ensure patient privacy.
3. Automate Electronic Lockouts
This is a no-brainer. Place an automatic password protected lockout on all computer devices that access PHI. This can ensure that unattended devices cannot be accidentally (or maliciously) accessed in a way that violates patient information.
4. Monitor Your Network
It may sound a bit “big-brotherish” but that’s what you want when it comes to privacy. Monitoring all access on your practice’s computer devices is a best practice for purposes of protecting your patients and their PHI. Network monitoring solutions are in abundance and are affordable for practices of any size.
Disclaimer: Consider these tips in addition to specific compliance policies and regulations, and make sure they’re reviewed by a compliance officer or healthcare privacy attorney for adherence to all necessary requirements and guidelines.
Struggling with ways to increase patient engagement at your practice? Download our free ebook, “4 Ways Outpatient Therapy Providers Can Increase Patient Engagement” to learn how an engaged patient can lead to better overall outcomes.