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How HIPAA Safeguards Can Help You Safely Transmit PHI

Apr 4, 2022

For organizations handling Protected Health Information (PHI), cybersecurity attacks and other security threats are always just around the corner. Having a strong security program is important for keeping your organization’s information safe. To protect yourself from breaches, fines, and other penalties, here is a list of technical safeguards you can implement to help keep your data secure.

Ensure that only authorized users have access to the PHI in question

All organizations subject to HIPAA are required to manage who has the right to access, change, and/or distribute sensitive health data. But how do you make sure PHI can only be accessed by an authorized user? The HIPAA Security Rule requires use of the following safeguards:

  • Unique user IDs
  • Emergency access procedures
  • Automatic logoff
  • Messaging encryption

Have a system to monitor user activity in place

This is also required by the HIPAA Security Rule. Having a system in place that logs what was accessed, when, and by which user is essential for the documentation and review of activity related to PHI. With this in place, activity can be analyzed and vulnerabilities or security incidents can be mitigated. 

Those authorized to access PHI must use a username and PIN to authenticate identity

If an authorized user has a unique username and PIN, their activity can be tracked. This allows organizations to enforce user accountability and lowers the risk of an unauthorized user accessing PHI or other sensitive organization information.

Implement Policies and Procedures to protect the integrity of PHI

HIPAA states that PHI must not be “altered or destroyed in an unauthorized manner.” Maintaining the integrity of PHI is of utmost importance, whether it’s being sent over email, efax, or text. Human error or the failure of an information system can cause the integrity of PHI to be compromised. That’s why HIPAA requires technical safeguards that maintain the security of PHI while at rest, in storage, and in transit.

Data being transmitted beyond an organization’s internal firewall should be encrypted

In order to minimize risk of a data breach and unauthorized access to PHI, data encryption should be used any time it is being sent over the internet. Because email, efax, and text rely on an internet connection, encryption must be used. It is up to each organization to determine what secure platforms will be used to transmit information and which reasonable safeguards will be established.

Healthcare entities should exercise caution regarding devices in use

If reasonable safeguards and HIPAA compliance regulations are not in place, sending unsecured PHI can pose major issues for your organization. Many organizations implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy to establish procedures for safe device usage and secure PHI transmission. 

An estimated 80% of healthcare professionals use personal devices for work purposes. This poses a considerable risk of PHI being accessed by unauthorized personnel. Most applications do not have automatic logoff features, which makes them non-compliant with HIPAA. And if an unencrypted device is stolen, PHI can very quickly fall into the wrong hands. Establish safeguards today to keep your organization’s data secure.

How can Total HIPAA help?

Here at Total HIPAA, data security is of the utmost importance to us. We are a team of professionals with the knowledge and expertise to guide you toward a specific plan for your business, that will not only help you protect your data, but your reputation as well. With the help of Total HIPAA, you can minimize your risk of a data breach and better understand what you need to do to stay up to date with all relevant procedures.

For more info on HIPAA training, visit our blog here! If you would like to know more about our online HIPAA training or our customized compliance solution, HIPAA Prime, email info@totalhipaa.com today. Or, get started here.

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