The digital age is having its impact on just about every aspect of business and community life—and the medical field is no exception. Whereas in the past individuals and their physicians typically developed long-term relationships, in which the physician was easily able to maintain personal files and recall details about an individual’s health to provide optimal care in the future, this is not the model that our current healthcare system works within anymore. Even within a consistent office space, a single patient may see multiple physicians for their care. Digitizing patient records becomes more and more important as patients require ongoing care that follows them from the office of one physician to another. Health information managers have become more and more important with this shifting atmosphere, and are now in many contexts the parties most responsible for maintaining consistent information about patient care.
The highly digitized transfer of patient data means that patient care can become more accurate, more personalized, and faster than care has ever been in the past, but it also exposes the medical industry to huge risk. Once any highly personalized information is digitized, the risk for digital security threat has to be addressed, and it is on the shoulders of HIM professionals to ensure that these threats are managed appropriately.
With a growing dependence on HIM professionals for managing much of the information across medical offices, there is an increased risk for security breaches from cyberattack. This highly personal information needs to be protected, and this means that HIM professionals need to take the following steps to ensure they are not putting any information at undue risk for attack.
Here are three ways that HIM professionals should be protecting patient data:
- Maintaining HIPAA Compliance:
HIM professionals are in the best position to ensure that all personal information is maintained within the boundaries of HIPAA compliance. All medical professionals understand the importance with which HIPAA compliance must be maintained, and HIM professionals are the best people to have in charge of securing that information digitally to those guidelines. HIPAA shouldn’t be an after-thought. Having a professional in place whose assigned to make these considerations a priority is incredibly helpful.
- Providing Protection from Cyber Attacks:
Cyber-attacks are a growing threat across all industries, and the medical profession is no exception. HIM professionals are an easy target, as they are physically managing all of the patient data—which is typically highly personal. In fact, just from 2015 to 2016, TrapX found that healthcare cyber security breaches increased by 63 percent. Cyber attacks can come in any form, but the most common are malware, ransomware and phishing attacks. HIM professionals are in the best position to secure this information online by taking the necessary steps to reduce cyber security risks. Working within a safe server, following basic cyber security guidelines and utilizing anti-virus software are all healthy habits that HIM professionals need to use regularly to maintain the safety of the medical data they work with.
- Appropriately Influencing HIM Laws:
The average person who seeks medical care doesn’t put a lot of thought into the way that their information is managed. Similarly, the average physician isn’t as focused as the way that the information is stored as they are in ensuring that the information is most accurate for their patient’s healthcare needs. There is an incredibly important role to fill, therefore, by the health information management professional, in creating and maintaining standards to ensure that this information isn’t mishandled, nor become subject to malicious digital attacks. HIM professionals work to keep this information secure by creating and managing standards that individuals and healthcare professionals then work within.
The role of HIM professionals is more important than ever in this digital age. So many patients now have an expectation that physicians will have up-to-the-date and highly accurate information about their medical records, and won’t feel the necessity of maintaining those records themselves. All aspects of the healthcare industry rely on the accuracy and security of this information, and so it is important that HIM professionals are taking this task, and the security of the information as serious as possible.