Is electronic protected health information (ePHI) getting outside your healthcare organization?

Electronic Protected Health Information on a chart

Under HIPAA regulations, health information or data that can be used to identify an individual patient is categorized as protected health information (PHI) and must undergo a wide range of practices explicitly designed to protect patient confidentiality. Covered entities must implement processes and controls to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of physical PHI and electronic PHI (ePHI). 

What to know about protecting electronic protected health information

Cybersecurity alerts are increasingly issued to healthcare entities warning of the potential for targeted attacks on industry organizations. Threats to organizations’ networks, resources, and data come in many forms and create an ever-changing challenge for healthcare IT and Security teams to identify and protect against.

Ransomware, credential phishing, password spray attacks, and compromised credentials are some common methods for threat actors to achieve their goal of gaining access to sensitive and valuable information housed within the complex environment of a healthcare organization. 

Tips for safeguarding your ePHI and preventing a data breach

Are you concerned about ePHI getting outside of your healthcare organization? Understanding some effective ways to reinforce cybersecurity at your organization can help maintain HIPAA compliance and provide better protections to patients and data within your environment. A few tips for safeguarding ePHI include:

Conduct a HIPAA Risk Assessment

One of the initial steps to strengthening a healthcare organization’s security program is to identify cybersecurity risks. A thorough HIPAA Security Risk Assessment evaluates the physical, administrative, and technical safeguards within a healthcare organization and assesses the likelihood of impacts should a successful attack occur. 

Proactively mitigate vulnerabilities

Upon identification of risks to the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of sensitive or protected information within the organization, actions must be taken to mitigate or lower the risks to an acceptable level. Described below are a few common risk mitigation processes and controls that should be present or implemented within your security program. 

  • Implement multi-factor authentication
  • Maintain a thorough security patching program
  • Conduct routine vulnerability scans
  • Develop a comprehensive Incident Response program
  • Leverage a third-party service provider to conduct Penetration Tests of your environment
  • Perform phishing campaigns across the organization to train your workforce on how to identify malicious email messages
  • Implement effective email and endpoint security controls

There are many other security measures that should be implemented as part of a comprehensive program. Those listed above cover just a few common recommendations. Results of your specific HIPAA Security Risk Assessment will help identify potential gaps and risks that should be addressed in order to provide necessary protections around data and resources within your organization.