Important Tips to Protect Your EHR System
By using electronic health record (EHR) and practice management systems, medical practices have all sorts of information available. With a few computer keystrokes or mouse clicks, we could find, use, and share information that helps satisfy our patients’ needs.
But other people want access to this information. Their intent isn’t to help your patients, but to hurt them by stealing personal data and using it for harmful purposes.
To protect this sensitive medical data and provide EHR security, consider taking a few steps.
Assess your risks
Going through life with a pessimistic outlook usually isn’t the healthiest perspective, but a little pessimism may be helpful when you’re considering and implementing EHR security measures.
More accurately, it’s useful to think about the kinds of risks your EHR system faces or might face. By conducting a risk assessment, you’ll identify things that could possibly hurt your system and think about what could happen if they actually occur.
Such considerations are important because your practice is always changing. Maybe your office has moved or has opened another location, or you could be conducting more of your work online, such as offering more telehealth appointments.
Is your practice storing this information on a new server? In the cloud? It’s a good idea to analyze your data safety procedures and update them regularly.
Staffing could also bring risks. Do your current staff members have experience with your EHR and practice management systems and their safety protocols? Do you trust new employees with your procedures and data?
After analyzing these potential downfalls, if something bad does happen, you’ve already thought about it and ways to solve it. This knowledge and preparation could inspire confidence, not fear.
Perform tests and scans
While you’re brainstorming potential problems, you also might want to pretend that something has gone wrong or check if it could go wrong.
To make such checks, conduct tests and scans of your electronic health record (EHR), practice management, and other software systems.
Use antivirus software and other tools to check for the presence of viruses and other types of malwares, such ransomware. Ransomware is malware that could prevent you from accessing and using your files.
If your antivirus software and tools determine that your system is infected with malware or is at risk of infection, take immediate action. This action might include contacting your practice’s resident tech expert or another trusted professional who you’ve worked with in the past.
They’ll work with your practice to quarantine files, destroy viruses, or take other safety-related steps.
Update your software and systems regularly
Working with tech experts could help you tackle current problems. It’s equally important to establish security techniques for electronic health records to try to prevent such problems in the future.
We’ve all groaned when those messages pop up on our computers to inform us that our software systems need updating. While we’ve probably also delayed those updates, it’s a good idea not to ignore them entirely.
Also known as patches or service packs, software updates typically include features to patch vulnerable aspects of software programs as well as items that fix bugs and enhance the software.
Many of these updates occur automatically or when we permit them to occur. Other software doesn’t update immediately but indicates when users should take such actions.
Encrypt your data
By encrypting your practice’s sensitive personal information, you’re adding another layer of EHR data protection.
When you encrypt information, your system uses algorithms to convert regular text known as cleartext into coded information. Technology professionals refer to this coded information as ciphertext.
Ciphertext appears as random letters and numbers, so it’s impossible to interpret without a tool known as a key. Only authorized users have these keys and can convert ciphertext back into readable, usable cleartext.
If hackers do get into your EHR system and your individual records, they don’t have keys. They won’t have access to information they shouldn’t have.
Even if they try to share encrypted information, it will be worthless gibberish, not valuable personal data.
Evaluate your hardware
Antivirus and encryption tools are useful ways to secure private information. So is evaluating your medical office’s hardware.
Determine how your staff members are accessing data. Are they using personal computers and laptops that are physically at your office? Those kinds of devices in their homes? You’ll need to ensure that each device uses antivirus and security precautions.
You might want to create policies about the employee use of phones, tablets, and other smaller electronic devices to access your practice’s medical records.
Consider buying such smaller electronic devices (or reimbursing employees for them) and designating them as work-only hardware. Then, you can install and monitor security tools as part of your EHR maintenance efforts that keep your patient data safer.
These precautions should extend through the use of your computers and beyond. Are you buying new devices? Make sure the old ones don’t have medical information stored on the devices themselves. If they do, delete it.
Save your important information first. Then, you could wipe the device’s hard drive by running a factory reset. You could also remove the hard drive entirely or check the internet to explore other actions.
Limit employee access
In addition to limiting the amount of devices that could access your EHRs, it’s also a good idea to limit the amount of people who could see and use such records.
New staff members probably don’t need full access to your EHRs and probably shouldn’t. It’s a good idea to work with staff members for a bit. Becoming familiar with them could help you determine if they’re trustworthy in different ways and seem as if they’ll be working with your practice for a while.
On the other hand, do you have loyal employees who have been working with you for years? Employees who have displayed honesty and integrity in different ways?
Those are the employees who are probably more trustworthy. They’re people who are better candidates for seeing, using, and altering your entire EHR system.
Speaking of accessing and altering EHR systems, are you in the market for a new EHR or practice management system? Do you have questions about how this software works and what it could do for you? Contact Eye Care Leaders to learn how electronic recordkeeping and other solutions could help you work effectively, easily, and yes, safely.
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