For healthcare IT teams across the country, maintaining network security throughout an organization isn’t just about keeping data safe – it’s also about keeping their operations compliant.

The medical industry’s rapidly increasing reliance on cloud-based technology and connected medical devices to transmit critical patient data have made cybersecurity issues and data loss prevention efforts top concerns for organizations within every specialty and vertical.

With the steady, seemingly relentless rise in cyber attacks and digital criminal activities, IT healthcare professionals are under significant pressure to not only prevent patient data breaches but also maintain the very highest compliance standards outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

How to Ensure HIPAA Compliance

Understanding some of the most essential components of HIPAA requirements while driving technology innovation is critical.

Most healthcare IT departments begin the journey to HIPAA compliance by implementing the mandates outlined in the HIPAA Security Rule.

The Security Rule highlights specifications for the physical, technical, and administrative safeguards that must be put in place to prevent a cybersecurity compromise.

These three safeguards include the following:

Physical Safeguards

Many healthcare organizations are surprised to learn that HIPAA has stringent standards regarding the physical protection of technology and data.

The Physical Safeguard mandates that the environment where computer systems containing patient data are stored must be protected from fire and environmental hazards.

This HIPAA compliance requirement also states that technology must be safe from “intrusion,” including both in-person data manipulation and cyber hacking. Some examples of physical safeguards may include:

  • Develop disaster recovery plans specific to the restoration of lost and compromised data
  • Create access security controls that prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing facility and equipment
  • Align user’s data access relevant to their specific role within the organization
  • Establish a best practice that documents outside services coming into the building

Technical Safeguards

The Technical Safeguards address who has access to private and sensitive healthcare information as well as the practices used to transmit electronic protected health data to other resources. Technical Safeguards can vary from one covered entity to the next.

For example, a smaller medical facility will typically use less sophisticated computer malware prevention technology than larger organizations that utilize more complex operating systems to support their data exchanges.

Some vital components for establishing agile and effective technical safeguards in a healthcare environment include:

  • Designate each authorized personnel with a unique user identifier to monitor use and transmission of sensitive data
  • Install a mechanism that encrypts and decrypts highly sensitive data
  • Develop an auditing system that logs, tracks, and analyzes all relevant data transmission activities
  • Implement policies and practices that prevent unauthorized data modification and elimination
  • Create a program that protects “at rest” stored data
  • Secure “in motion” data as it is transmitted from one covered entity to the next
  • Maintain compliant and secure email and messaging strategies

Administrative Safeguards

This final HIPAA Security Rule subset requires healthcare organization to establish specific security practices and maintenance measures to sustain and elevate the protection of private patient data. Administrative Safeguards may include:

  • Detailed documentation on system policies, procedures, and protocols for hired and terminated employees
  • Comprehensive training programs for both new hires and existing staff to promote and reinforce HIPAA awareness
  • Robust auditing and monitoring process that provides checks and balances for network use

These are just a few of the many vital components needed to ensure fully compliant healthcare technology throughout your organization.