Maintaining data security in healthcare

Healthcare is a fast-moving industry, with seemingly constant changes related to the technology used not only to treat patients, but the vast systems architecture in place to support that treatment. As in other fields, one of the most notable shifts of the last 20 years is the move from paper records to a standard digital format. Again, not unlike the rest of the world, this involves working through many security concerns that are still not fully understood.

"HIPAA includes guidelines on how IT asset disposition should be approached."

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 continues to set the standard for medical professionals who handle electronic health records. But the rules regarding how they are disposed of may be just as important - yet more frequently overlooked - than the guidelines for maintaining them. That's why HIPAA-compliant organizations are increasingly relying on secure IT asset disposition services to continue earning the trust of the people they treat each day.

The Department of Health and Human Services is the agency tasked with ensuring HIPAA compliance across the health industry. According to HHS guidelines, data security is a key ingredient in the protection of patient privacy, and all organizations beholden to HIPAA must undergo a multi-step assessment of relevant controls, which includes:

  • A full review of existing procedures related to security of protected health data.
  • Conducting a risk analysis to identify privacy-related vulnerabilities and the steps involved in mitigating them.
  • Establishing an action plan to carry out risk mitigation solutions.

Data security action plan

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The HHS mandated that an organization's health data security action plan must specifically outline how HIPAA-protected records will be kept private, and should implement safeguards at the administrative, physical, technical and organizational level.

With these guidelines in mind, it's clear that IT asset disposition must play a role in carrying out these requirements. According to the HHS, physical safeguards such as hard drive removal and destruction constitute "low-cost, highly effective" means of preventing a health record security breach. But for large, nationwide firms as well as the average doctor's office, knowing how, when and where to properly dispose of these devices can be a frustrating, expensive exercise.

Managing data security risks isn't a one-man job in any profession. Sipi Asset Recovery helps healthcare providers and other HIPAA-compliance businesses safely dispose of sensitive data storage devices while ensuring every step along the way is monitored and documented. Partnering with a trusted ITAD service provider helps these organizations avoid a serious HIPAA headache.

Topics: Certification and Compliance