Conformation to HIPAA data storage requirements is a must when it comes to local image storage — read on to understand how to be HIPAA compliant
- The privacy rules in the HIPAA guideline highlight the type of data that needs protection and the basic requirements for the protection mechanism
- The HIPAA privacy rules lay the foundation for the security rules that specify the procedures needed to prevent a data breach
- The security summary of HIPAA guidelines asks healthcare facilities for continuous monitoring of cyberattack risks
- Healthcare organizations should periodically gauge the likelihood of a data breach threat and the impact it can have
- All healthcare facilities that have health information systems should have a fool-proof data security mechanism in place
Patient information is sensitive data. It is not only an ethical responsibility of healthcare facilities to ensure the security of patient data but there are laws in place to safeguard such information as well.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) underlines various rules that impact the way patient data, including medical images, should be stored. There are four different specifications of HIPAA file storage requirements, which will be discussed in the blog post.
Privacy rule specifications
The privacy rule is the foundation of the HIPAA framework. The primary function of this rule is to clearly define what kind of data has to be protected and the basic requirements of what the protection mechanisms should encompass. The rule is not only there to ensure appropriate restrictions to data access but also describes the privileges certain parties have to access that data.
All data that comes under the ambit of HIPAA guidelines is termed Protected Health Information (PHI). The privacy rule summary states that the protected health information includes all identifiable patient data (physical and electronic) that also includes the following:
- Information about any patient’s past, present, or future health condition
- Information regarding the healthcare services the patient has received
- Information relating to the payments made for the healthcare services provided
If the name, age, or any other demographic or biographical information is connected to the above-mentioned information, that information must also be protected.
Privacy rules also outline specifications for permitted uses and disclosures, required uses and disclosures, and minimum necessary disclosures.
Permitted uses and disclosures: The following uses and disclosures are permitted.
- Use by or disclosure to the subject of the protected health information
- Uses or disclosure required for payment, treatment, or healthcare operation
- Uses or disclosure for which the subject has reasonable opportunity to object
- Uses or disclosures that are incidental to other required or permitted use cases
- Uses or disclosure for public benefit
- Uses or disclosure of limited data sets needed to complete approved research
Required Used and Disclosures: The following uses or disclosures are required.
- Uses or disclosure to the subject of the protected health information
- Disclosure to select government agencies
Minimum necessary disclosure: HIPAA also directs that only the minimum necessary patient information should be shared by concerned healthcare professionals while they carry out their duties.
Security rule specifications
The security rule builds upon the clauses given in the privacy rule and specifies procedures to decrease potential breaches. The security rule further breaks down into four general rules:
- Ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of PHI and ePHI
- Pinpointing and dealing with threats to integrity and confidentiality
- Safeguarding against reasonable misuse of disclosure threats of PHI and ePHI
- Making the entire workforce comply with privacy and security rules
Security rules also make it mandatory to follow two sets of responsibilities. One pertains to risk and vulnerability management, and the other is about administrative, physical, and technical protective measures.
- Security threat and vulnerability management: The HIPAA security rule asks healthcare organizations to monitor their information systems for any possible weaknesses and have plans to counter those weaknesses so any potential cyberattack can be countered.
- Administrative, Physical, and Technical safeguards: The security rule outlines safeguard requirements to ensure patient data is safe. These requirements span over administrative, physical, and technical safeguards:
Administrative precautions: These administrative precautionary measures should be implemented by high-level governance and management officials. The safeguards include five measures that should be applied across the organization.
- Establishment and maintenance of security management process in a programmatic manner
- Making security personnel oversee staff and manage operations
- Applying information management access to restrict or monitor access to data
- Training the workforce to optimize security readiness
- Using data assessments and analytics to ensure workforce security awareness
Physical precautions: Data storage hardware and software also needs attention so any breaches can be averted. HIPAA guidelines recommend two controls.
- Restricting access to facilities storing PHI and ePHI
- Restricting access to devices and workstations connected to PHI and ePHI.
Technical precautions: HIPAA guidelines highlight the importance of the use of advanced technology to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access to patient data. HIPAA recommends four controls in this regard.
- Limiting access to and within the software
- Putting audit protocols in place and regulating them via frequent security checks
- Ensuring no data is altered or deleted in an improper manner
- Monitoring network traffic to ensure transmission security
Breach notification rule specifications
If data is improperly stored or exposed to breach, notice should be provided to three parties with the following specifications.
- The individual: Parties affected by the breach must be notified no later than 60 days after the breach’s discovery.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): HHS should be notified of the breach within 60 days of the year’s end if less than 500 people are impacted and within 60 days of the breach’s discovery if more than 500 people are affected.
- Media: If more than 500 people are affected by a data breach within a defined geographical location, local media outlets must be notified.
Who must ensure HIPAA Guidelines are Implemented?
All healthcare providers, health insurance plan administrators and distributors, and health clearinghouses who deal with patient data must ensure they are following HIPAA guidelines.
Penalties for violations are high and applied per violation, running from $100 per violation up to $50,000 per violation for “Tier 4” violations. Beyond corporate fines, the individuals involved can also face fines and up to 10 years in jail. So, it’s imperative that everyone on your team knows their role in HIPAA enforcement and follows the required practices.
Additional steps you can take to ensure secure data
Here are some additional tips you can do to keep patient data secure:
- Try to set strong passwords
- Always backup data
- Have antivirus and firewall software in place
- Visualize a culture of security in your organization
- Be on the lookout for new technologies to make your data storage more secure
Storage XR is a HIPAA-compliant solution for medical imaging data storage. For more information about the software, contact us today.