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Seven hacks for data encryption in healthcare institutions

The world is waking up to the importance of encryption, the process of converting confidential data into an impenetrable code.

 

This year saw millions of WhatsApp users abandon the app when poorly worded policy updates led them to believe their data was at risk.

 

With the increasing sense of urgency on protecting personal conversations, encryption in healthcare is a vital part of taking care of patients’ data.

 

Healthcare data encryption is crucial for protecting patient privacy and establishing business security, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires institutions to encrypt protected health information (PHI).

 

Discover the seven hacks for healthcare institutions looking to improve their encryption and put patients’ minds at ease.

 

1. Create a PHI flow diagram

 

The starting point for better protection is understanding how data flows within your institution, from the ways it is collected to how it travels from there.

 

Build a comprehensive PHI flow diagram including all forms of communication, even emails and texting.

 

Assess the ways patients record their own data and how it's shared with suppliers and partners.

 

Ensure all members of your organisation are accounted for within the flow diagram, as it will build the basis of your data encryption strategy.

 

 


 

READ MORE: Is Outlook HIPAA Compliant? What You Need To Know

 


 

 

2. Educate on healthcare data encryption

 

You can't expect your healthcare professionals to be fully compliant with data protection protocols if they don't understand them.

 

As most security breaches occur due to human error, it is crucial to ensure understanding about the importance of data privacy of your patients across your organisation.

 

Hold encryption training sessions to demonstrate how each team member is involved and responsible so they understand their role in protecting PHI.

 

Share your security plan with employees, establishing an action plan in the event of a breach.

 

3. Make sure your patient portal is optimised

 

Although they’re not completely impenetrable, patient portals are considered a safer option than email or SMS for communication with patients.

 

These portals should offer encrypted messaging and file sharing using advanced encryption standards (AES) 256, 128, or 192, so mention what each of these standards mean.

 

So it’s easier to understand at first reading encryption to comply with HIPAA and keep information safe whether it is stationary or in transit.

 

Other features that boost security include role-based access control, which determines who can access certain information based on their role in the healthcare institution.

 

You can also apply multi-factor authentication or biometric data as an alternative to simple passwords.

 

4. Patient-centric healthcare data encryption

 

By ensuring encryption solutions are easy to use, you're making it more likely that team members, partners, and patients can comply.

 

This is particularly important when considering that many health industry service users are elderly or vulnerable.

 

Implement frictionless solutions to foster adoption without creating a barrier between patients and their records.

 

You can do this by making encryption an automated facet of all communications and offering patient support for managing their accounts.

 

5. Only use official user devices

 

While ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) is convenient and can help if there aren’t sufficient official devices available, it actually causes a lot of loopholes for data breaches.

 

Even when you use official devices, encryption should be mandatory on all removal external devices or removable media to protect PHI.

 

6. Conduct regular risk assessments

 

Being able to identify the cause of a data breach through an audit trail is extremely useful, but it can only be conducted after the incident has already happened.

 

Conducting regular risk assessments can help towards prevention, by identifying weak areas in a healthcare organization’s security.

 

By putting in place a periodic risk assessment to identify and manage any potential risks, healthcare providers can avoid any data breaches that could cost them a lot in the long run.

 

It’ll protect reputations and reduce penalties from regulatory agencies.

 

7. Know your healthcare data encryption storage

 

Business owners often understand the risks of laptops, tablets, and other personal devices.

 

However, many fail to realise that anyone with access to company information through a mobile phone will also need to meet encryption requirements.

 

Checking emails or messaging colleagues through a mobile phone may be enough to put PHI at risk.

 

Create a company policy that extends beyond a passcode, ensuring encryption on all mobile devices, PHI access procedures, and clear steps if an employee’s device is misplaced.

 

The importance of encryption in healthcare

 

Data encryption should be a priority for any health institution, and there are steps you can take to implement it today.

 

If your organisation is looking for simple solutions for strengthening encryption protocols in healthcare, contact Sealit to get started today.

 

 


 

 

 


 

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