Running a medical practice is tricky in itself. But do you know what’s even trickier? Making sure you don’t lose it. Because the latest trend in ransomware is targeting medical facilities. That’s right, hackers are stealing medical records for ransom, and demanding practices pay in Bitcoins in exchange for your patient’s information. If this happens to you, watch out. Your staff will be at a complete loss about what to do with your patients in the waiting room. And you will be scrambling to figure out how to save your life’s work.

To prevent this, it is important to become compliant. Anyone who handles any type of electronic medical data has to follow specific guidelines. These are set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. To make sure patient data is protected, medical practices must confirm that all mandatory protocol is being conducted. This includes the saving, accessing and sharing of any electronic medical data. If a medical practice is not HIPAA compliant, they could receive hefty fines and even lose their medical license. Make sure you’re up to code! Follow the steps below and you’ll be on your way to HIPAA compliancy:

Risk Assessment 

Since HIPAA began in 1996, there are plenty of medical practices that have systems in place that are not HIPAA compliant. For some practices, it wasn’t clear to them what guidelines they should follow. Having a risk assessment using HIPAA standards and guidelines, done by your IT experts, will expose areas in which adjustments are needed on your current system.

Preparation

Your practice should be completely equipped with the technology needed for its security and protection. First, all medical data should be backed up at an offsite location on a regular basis. Second, have your IT experts continually monitor your system to provide you with crucial alerts. Third, implement a firewall to block any intruders, and finally, install anti-virus and anti-malware programs in all computers for user-safety.

Employee Training Programs

To establish secure data protection, it is imperative that staff is trained on proper protocol. Your medical practice should be using password managers and have an encryption system in place. Correct email handling is achieved by implementing phishing simulation training courses. Remember, any medical practice is only as strong as its weakest link – and in most cases an untrained employee is the weakest link.

Know Your Vendors

Always conduct background checks with your vendors and contractually bind them to security standards and protocols in their contracts.  Also, make sure new equipment is compatible with HIPAA compliant systems and that they offer proper security features.

Have Your Incident-Response Plan Ready

Consistently update your staff about the types and motives of current attacks towards medical practices. Make sure to confirm that your outside IT and legal experts are reachable for the inevitable cyber event. You should also be aware of your local law enforcement contacts, because if a breach does occur, you have up to 72 hours after the incident to report it.

 

Nobody wants to deal with ransomware, so it’s important to be proactive and vigilant. The future of your practice and the protection of our patient’s data is more than enough reason to become HIPAA compliant. So keep your practice up and running, and keep your patient’s data safe. The time to enforce security is before a crisis, and not afterwards when it’s too late.

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