Healthcare in the Digital Age: What Rules and Regulations Protect Patient Data?

healthcareAs we’ve discussed in a recent post that took a hard look at one of the latest headline-grabbing cyber attacks to rock networks the world over, the healthcare industry appears to be among the most vulnerable sectors to these threats.

It’s pretty clear why: Healthcare companies – from medical practices to insurers – collect a significant amount of sensitive data about their customers, including not just private medical information but also data related to personal finances and family accounts. The variety of threats that hackers can unleash are staggering as a result, from targeting caregivers themselves or even the customers and patients whose data is compromised on an individual basis.

The threat of cyber security is hardly a new one for those in healthcare. As a result, federal and state legislators have put an array of mandates in place over the years that aim to ensure healthcare companies – including hospitals, insurers and private practitioners – are taking adequate steps to protect the wealth of sensitive data they keep on file.

Take, for instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, known colloquially as HIPAA, which provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. While the mandates in this five-part law were originally established more than two decades ago, the high cost of non-compliance to HIPAA standards could leave providers on the hook for upwards of $50,000 per individual violation.

The federal government entered the digital age of healthcare legislation in 2009 when it enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which made the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) all but mandatory by 2015. The mandate worked, as almost 90 percent of companies had moved their data management over to EHR frameworks by the 2015 deadline, allowing medical practices and associated institutions to enter the streamlined world of digital data transfer once and for all.

By improving the efficiency and accuracy of data collection in healthcare via the adoption of EHR and health IT, providers have also needed to step up their security protocols, and not just to avoid non-compliance fines by way of HIPAA and HITECH. Rather, healthcare organizations and the patients and customers they serve need to work diligently together to make sure sensitive information is only exchanged between relevant parties.

LINK, for instance, can allow users to exchange data like bank account numbers or health history only between fellow LINK owners. While medical practices can exchange EHRs between each other over their own private networks, patients can securely update their financial information to pay for a one-off visit or procedure, for instance, to cover any costs or copays without having to get held up at discharge.

Even internally, medical practices can leverage LINK to share data between doctors and nurses as a safe way to manage information being exchanged along a hospital or practice’s private network. While the scope and details of this exchange would need to be ironed out in order to avoid any potential law breaking or penalties, there are a wealth of possibilities for a storage and connectivity device that fits conveniently in a user’s pocket like LINK in the fast-paced world of healthcare.


8 thoughts on “Healthcare in the Digital Age: What Rules and Regulations Protect Patient Data?

  1. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is great for record keeping. However, our medical professionals need to work on their cyber security to prevent hacks and lost of data.

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  2. This is so important. In the digital age, hackers appear to be 10 steps ahead of everyone at the moment which definitely worries me when it comes to my private information. Many doctors offices may not consider themselves to be a huge risk because of its ‘just healthcare’ but that won’t stop hackers from accessing private patient data anyway. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.

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  3. I work in healthcare and it is vitally important that things be kept safe! We’ve made great strides but still so far to go.

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  4. I worked in health care for a while in 2008-2009 and it was really important that we protected the patient information at all cost. It was also when we were first going digital. I love this post and it reminds me of working in the health field.

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  5. It is so scary how hackers are now accessing and stealing people’s information. So very important to make sure every bit of our personal details is protected. I hope Healthcare companies and practices definitely make sure their measures make it impossible for any info to get into the wrong hands.

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  6. Privacy is such an issue. My son just went to get his first job and took his bank info in for direct deposit. I had to teach him to shred the information when he was done and explain to him the risk. Now I will have him read this too.

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  7. It’s so crazy to think that technology has seeped into all aspect of our lives. Making sure our information is kept private is so important and our healthcare providers need to do a better job !!

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