Tips to overcome PHI security obstacles

Healthcare organizations’ privacy programs are still understaffed and underfunded, even while millions of patients’ protected health information (PHI) are compromised.

Securing PHI in healthcare is an obstacle, with 94 percent of healthcare organizations suffering data breaches in the past two years, according to the Third Annual Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy & Data Security. Organizations face new challenges with the recent release of the HIPAA Final Omnibus Rule.

For those responsible for managing privacy and data security at healthcare organizations, industry experts offer six tips to overcome PHI security obstacles:

1. We don’t do privacy because of HIPAA; we do it because it’s part of quality patient care. Make sure we get value for our investment in privacy. – Jim Anderson, principal, Risk Masters.

2. Invest in your people. Train them on policies and procedures. Post and send security reminders. Reward compliance; sanction non-compliance. Make your people an asset, not a liability. – Mary Chaput, chief financial and compliance officer, Clearwater Compliance.

3. An essential risk management exercise for your privacy program is to protect PHI. Be sure you know where PHI is being collected, used, shared, and transferred and how and when PHI is securely destroyed. Map your data, classify it, and then securely dispose of it on schedule to lower the risks and costs of excess storage. – Ellen Giblin, privacy counsel, The Ashcroft Group.

4. Understand the value of the PHI in your organization in order to determine the appropriate level of investment to protect it. A core goal of the forum is to help participants calculate these values. – Rick Kam, president and co-founder of ID Experts.

5. With liability risks around PHI privacy escalating, business associates and subcontractors should consider purchasing cyber insurance to help mitigate the rising financial risk. – James C. Pyles, principal, Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC.

6. Develop a clear concept of how PHI protection will work. Recognize that a change in organizational culture may have to take place. Develop a written statement of benefits. Set reasonable goals. – Dick Wolfe, adjunct professor of health care administration, Washington Adventist University.

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