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How Good Is the Patient Data Security in Your Multi-Disciplinary Clinic Applications?

data security.jpgWritten by: Sue-Ellen McKelvey DC PhD MBA

We are all constantly seeing in the media security breaches and the “value” seen in personal health information (PHI) by cyber criminals. These activities remind all in the healthcare industry to stay aware of this very real potential threat. The front desk/reception is to have a daily vigilance from email phishing and scams to maintaining software password protocols. The organization must have an absolute commitment to maintain the security of patient data; the concept is huge. 
A series of measures are now part of good management; all must be actively checked and all in agreement that only by working at all levels against cyberattacks can any clinic/health organization or software platform protect this critical information.
Personal health information (PHI) is priceless and increasingly this realm of ‘identity’ is the target of thieves and hijackers.  Your clinic server can be hacked, or vital health information accessed; often data is at its most vulnerable when being up and downloaded; check all is encrypted when being transferred. We have grave concerns about the security of data in any transfer across the internet; check if you are using an unsecured patient portal for your clinic or how PHI is shared in electronic exchange such as email.
Of course, you already have policies in place securing patient clinical data from ‘internal clinic staff or inappropriate eyes’- but in 2021 the management needs to be more proactive — putting more dynamic measures in place across their organization to check what is the set-up around all data that is PHI?
Check the secured access to PHI: What can and can’t be seen by the different members of your clinical, front desk and administration staff? Some clinical notes that must be kept 100% closed to prying eyes should be able to be secured 100% to a specific user log in; sensitive information around a patient’s mental health is an absolute requirement in 2021?  The increased use of Telehealth for remote healthcare exchange and management plans from a distance must only be delivered in a secured platform. Can you audit all who access this sensitive data? Could a hacker gain access via the online booking site or telehealth program with which you have done a recent integration? Ask the right questions of all the software you use for your healthcare business. Ask if you can quantify in a report what PHI (data) is accessed by whom; across all the staff working in your clinic and those accessing via online means such as telehealth, patient portals and online booking sites?
Unfortunately, often the most common response is, “I’m not really sure...”. 

Post Covid –19 is going to be a more complex healthcare environment; your clinic has any points of vulnerability get some answers and set up proactive measures to show there is no breach point in the security approach your clinic maintains for securing personal health information that is “in your hands”.

Any clinic software solution for the coming decade must offer a clear cybersecurity risk management. You and your clinic staff as a healthcare /medical organization must have a team approach to vigilance from email phishing awareness to not sending PHI as email attachments. In 2021 get some demo’s that show you a clear security approach in their software cybersecurity approach; in partnership with great software you will then be able to confidently optimize your practice approach (medicolegal consents and operational security as much as transferring clinical notes and protecting PHI). Assess the software’s capacity to set-up ‘secured roles’ to ensure an audit trail of user access to sensitive personal health information. 
You may need to set up a team of disciplines working together as a team but can you still protect confidential or sensitive health information concerns. Can you enable a patient to choose a preferred provider or restrict another provider’s access to their records? Clinician teams may want to nominate a management team by name and tailor who can access to clinical notes; in a client centric approach the client/patient themselves may want to see an audit of where their PHI has been shared. 

This is the future.
As Primary Health providers accelerate provision of multi-disciplinary health services, the capacity to selectively secure patient data as to which provider and which approved staff member can access to view becomes critical.
In a patient’s healing program, clinical data is shared by many - nursing and support staff as well as several disciplines. The patient is in the middle of this ‘information sharing’; active and online. Can they just use an e-consent to share and have this automatically in their file?    
Check the cybersecurity risk management of the patient portal you use. Any online access to your clinic may have a point of breach if attacked by criminal experts. Secure the ‘up and download’ of data; this is an overt security weakness recognized as a potential ‘hole’ for hackers.
Visual Outcomes USA adheres to the highest of  standards in always modeling all parts of its complete healthcare software platform to protect personal health information (HIPAA 2020 sees this post Covid world as having more and more  Multi-Disciplinary  teams) 
Primary health is now a team approach of many providers with more patients interacting online via their portal or with Telehealth. From now on, increasingly it is a fact that online care is seen by all our clients or patients as the new normal.
So, all of us must be proactive and have dynamic measures to avoid cyber vulnerabilities and checks for local user vigilance using the internet.

Time to gear up!
– sleep well with daily reports of ‘reproducible’ audits and PHI control.
Older software is still active – its modeling from the 80s and 90’s is covered with other security software Integrations. But often built to serve a single modality, a part-record or a ‘selected’ clinical note could not be securely isolated when patient requires confidentiality between practitioners in a multi-disciplinary team clinic environment. 

As we move into different forms of team-based care, methods for ‘secured’ notes are to be versatile and reproducible; reportable and auditable. And have a security matrix around PHI; vital in a client-centric Multi-Disciplinary Enterprise Clinic. 

Visual Outcomes is a purpose-built enterprise solution of a one database software platform offering PMS CRM Accounts and Billing, inbuilt Reporting Engine and multi-disciplinary clinical note recordings; offering a secured online portal with inbuilt Telehealth; designed for a multi-disciplinary clinic and/or many locations with differing set ups. 
In one platform it includes

  • Team shared care health plans: all secured online.
  • A flexible appointment scheduler/book for multi-disciplinary processes
  • PHI security in all data uploads and downloads; fully audited.
  • Online tracking of outcomes / e-consents as a part of online care/telehealth

Visual Outcomes is an integrated secure solution hosted in AWS Cloud hosting services; world standards of transfer encryption with only secured storage facilities.
This gives assurances to all stakeholders within your enterprise management as well as government regulators and professional reporting requirements. 

You can have all expected standards in your clinic/s with a purpose-built enterprise software solution. Do it under your watch and do it now!

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