How Managed IT Services Can Protect Patient Health Information
In 1996, Congress passed a federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. More commonly, it’s known as HIPAA. This legislation intends to protect crucial patient health information, or PHI, so it isn’t disclosed without the patient knowing or consenting. Given how the country has moved into a digital world since this law passed, how PHI is handled with technology is very important.
What Qualifies As Patient Health Information?
PHI can include medical history, test results, lab information, insurance data, demographics, and mental health conditions. It’s any data that healthcare professionals might use to identify specific clients or patients and decide on their course of proper care. HIPAA is the primary law overseeing how PHI is used, accessed, and disclosed. PHI can relate to a patient’s present but might include past or future health information. Sensitive healthcare details include a patient’s medical status, birthdate, and insurance claims. PHI covers ailments, outcomes, and treatments and applies just as much to paper-based records as electronic systems. HIPAA lists nearly 20 identifiers classified as PHI, all information that can result in a patient being located, contacted, or identified.
How IT Services Can Protect PHI Data
Managed IT services are crucial to any business in the modern economy, and managed service providers are often the industry specialists who help companies of all sizes and sectors maintain their infrastructure. Part of the responsibility of healthcare businesses operating IT systems is protecting PHI. Using these specialists means healthcare establishments can focus on patient care while complying with strict regulations and requirements.
Email encryption is a huge area of HIPPA compliance. The healthcare industry often uses this particular communication tool, which happens internally and with patients. Sensitive information is often included but also needs to be properly protected. Encryption mechanisms must be in place and constantly maintained and monitored for possible issues or vulnerabilities. Data security extends to cloud solutions and internal servers where any PHI might be stored. Access can only be granted to employees properly trained and certified in such matters, per HIPAA requirements.
Why Protecting PHI Is Important for Both Your Business and Patients
Protecting PHI is crucial for both patients and businesses. In the case of patients, it’s primarily about safeguarding personal privacy. A data breach can impact a patient’s dignity, but it can also result in harm. PHI disclosed to relatives, insurers, and employers might result in circumstances of discrimination and stigma. Without protections, patients would be reluctant to disclose things to their physicians, and their quality of care would deteriorate. Autonomy and privacy are necessary for proper medicine to take place.
Businesses need to protect patient health information to defend themselves. Data breaches can result in lawsuits that cost millions or increase medical malpractice and business insurance costs. Losing trust can also result in many consumers doing business with other establishments. Also, failing to adhere to PHI rules and regulations might even result in fines and penalties from the government, including losing the ability to provide services to patients and customers.