HIPAA Series #9: HIPAA and Cybersecurity

HIPAA and cybersecurity

HIPAA lays down strict rules to protect the security of patient data, and every entity deemed a covered entity under HIPAA must adhere to these security and privacy rules. In reality, HIPAA’s security rules go beyond just patient information and help maintain a good security posture within your organization.

In this article, let’s look at how HIPAA guidelines can beef up your organization’s cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Threats in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations face many kinds of cybersecurity threats. It is estimated that 30% of all large data breaches occur in hospitals because of the availability of sensitive information.

Millions of patients’ records have been breached in the last few years, with the following types being the most prevalent:

  • Phishing attacks that use malicious emails to trick employees into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware.
  • Ransomware encrypts data and demands a ransom for its release.
  • Unauthorized access to sensitive patient information.
  • Employees or contractors misusing their access to PHI, either maliciously or negligently.

You can safeguard data from these cyberattacks by diligently following HIPAA’s guidelines. More importantly, such measures help establish trust and reputation while preventing disruptions.

How HIPAA Addresses Cybersecurity?

HIPAA’s Security Rule advocates different strategies to protect your organization from cybersecurity threats. These strategies can be divided into administrative, technical, and physical controls. Here’s a brief look at these controls and how you can implement them.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls include the policies and procedures you can create and enforce within your organization. It can include processes for storing, handling, sharing, and transmitting sensitive data.

They include:

  • Risk analysis to regularly assess potential risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Risk management measures to mitigate identified risks.
  • Security awareness and training programs to educate employees on security policies and procedures.

Physical Controls

Physical controls, as the name suggests, are the physical objects and measures you can use to control access to sensitive PHI.

These controls include:

  • Limit physical access to areas where ePHI/PHI is stored.
  • Ensure secure use of workstations with access to ePHI.
  • Use biometric devices and access cards to enter the premises.
  • Lock server rooms and data centers where required.

Technical Controls

Technical controls are the technological measures you use to regulate access to ePHI and to protect it from unauthorized access or viewing.

You can use the below strategies to implement technical controls:

  • Use access control to restrict access to authorized personnel.
  • Encrypt ePHI during transmission and storage.
  • Implement mechanisms to record and examine access and activities involving ePHI.

Thus, these are some controls you can use to improve your organization’s cybersecurity while meeting HIPAA guidelines.

7 Best Practices for HIPAA Cybersecurity

Besides implementing the above controls, follow these best practices to boost HIPAA cybersecurity:

  1. Conduct regular risk assessments and audits to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  2. Update and patch systems and software.
  3. Report a crime to law enforcement agencies as soon as you know.
  4. Create a disaster recovery plan with clear roles and responsibilities. Ensure that relevant employees know what they must do when a breach occurs.
  5. Regularly check if your business associates and vendors have security assessments and audits to identify and mitigate their vulnerabilities.
  6. Use robust firewalls and anti-malware software to protect network and data integrity.
  7. Keep your security policies and procedures up-to-date with the latest regulations and best practices.

Together, all these measures can protect your sensitive information, boost your reputation, and help save costs.

Final Words

In all, HIPAA’s Security Rule provides comprehensive cybersecurity protection for your organization, making it a compelling reason to diligently implement its administrative, technical, and physical controls. Moreover, we discussed seven best practices that can further improve your cybersecurity, protecting your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is an experienced technology, finance, and compliance writer. She combines her keen understanding of regulatory frameworks and industry best practices with exemplary writing skills to communicate complex concepts of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) in clear and accessible language. Lavanya specializes in creating informative and engaging content that educates and empowers readers to make informed decisions. She also works with different companies in the Web 3.0, blockchain, fintech, and EV industries to assess their products’ compliance with evolving regulations and standards.

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