When it comes to storing medical images, healthcare professionals need to prioritize patient privacy.
- MRI and CT scans contain sensitive patient data, and they must be stored and secured accordingly.
- Healthcare data breaches are becoming increasingly common around the world.
- Complying with HIPAA and HITECH enables a healthcare organization to minimize the risk of a data breach.
- Using a medical image storage system that aligns with data security requirements helps protect patient data and ensure only authorized personnel can securely and seamlessly share it with one another.
Protected health information (PHI) is an important consideration for healthcare facilities, particularly when it comes to the management and storage of medical images. If healthcare staff ignore PHI protocols, they risk exposing patient data to unauthorized personnel. And, if PHI falls into the wrong hands, it can endanger patients and healthcare professionals alike.
Ultimately, proper digital storage of PHI is just as important for medical imaging as any other patient information. By using a medical imaging storage system that protects patient privacy, healthcare facilities minimize the risk of a data breach.
A closer look at data breaches in healthcare
No industry is immune to data breaches, but healthcare is particularly exposed. Although many healthcare organizations have prioritized compliance with data security and privacy laws, data breaches have become increasingly common across the sector over the past decade.
At least 3,705 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights between 2009 and 2020. In total, more than 268 billion healthcare records were compromised across these breaches.
The rate of data breaches in healthcare continues to rise, too. HIPAA Journal notes healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported at a rate of around one per day in 2018. As of December 2020, that rate reached 1.76.
Why healthcare data breaches occur
Hackers target healthcare organizations to shut down essential systems and disrupt patient care. They also use ransomware to block access to healthcare systems until a cyber ransom is paid.
Along with hacker attacks, healthcare organizations can inadvertently expose PHI and leave it publicly accessible. For example, security analysts at cyber risk management company CybelAngel conducted a six-month investigation into NAS and DICOM across 4.3 billion IP addresses globally. They discovered more than 45 million medical imaging files – including X-rays and CT scans – freely accessible on unprotected servers. These records included millions of sensitive images, including PHI.
Is your PHI safe from data breaches?
Healthcare professionals who know the ins and outs of data security laws are better equipped to guard against cybercriminals. They can also take the necessary precautions to guard against unknowingly exposing healthcare data to people around the world.
The HIPAA Security Rule is a great starting point for physicians and other healthcare practitioners who want to protect against data breaches. The rule states that healthcare professionals must use appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to verify the confidentiality, integrity, and security of PHI.
In addition to learning the HIPAA Security Rule, healthcare organizations must follow the HITECH Act. Complying with HITECH helps ensure that electronic health records (EHRs) can be stored without exposing them to breaches.
HITECH encourages healthcare organizations to simultaneously improve data privacy and security and adopt EHRs. The act applies to all organizations that maintain EHRs. Failure to comply with HITECH can result in an initial penalty of up to $250,000. Repeat offenders can receive HITECH penalties up to $1.5 million.
Healthcare organizations should audit internal procedures and systems to validate their data security measures. A HIPAA audit checklist will help facilities evaluate their PHI systems and identify any risks. If issues are identified, these practitioners can take appropriate steps to alleviate them.
Safe, efficient storage of MRI and CT scans is a must-have. Yet, identifying a medical storage system that aligns with data security laws and provides authorized personnel with immediate access to essential scans remains difficult.
Why medical image storage improvements are necessary
Today’s medical image storage systems can be expensive. They require power, cooling, and other management costs. If a medical image storage system is not properly maintained, the costs to repair or replace the system can add up quickly.
Even if your healthcare organization invests in a pricey medical image storage system, there is no guarantee its personnel will have sufficient space for all of their MRI and CT scans. Some healthcare industry experts project the need for medical image storage across the sector is increasing at a rate of 20% to 25% annually. As facilities continue to perform and store MRI and CT scans, they need medical image storage systems that can keep pace.
Healthcare organizations can also encounter problems sharing medical images, regardless of how MRI and CT scans are stored. For example, a clinician may want to share an MRI or CT scan with a colleague at another facility. If the organization relies solely on physical media, it can take several days to share an MRI or CT scan with peers.
The bottom line: New medical image storage solutions must be developed that promote secure and efficient information sharing among healthcare practitioners. These solutions can help practitioners engage with one another, without compromising PHI, to deliver the best possible patient outcomes.
Find the right solution to store medical images digitally
It may seem difficult to manage PHI, but digital storage solutions are available to help healthcare organizations keep patient data safe. By choosing digital storage solutions that align with data security laws, healthcare professionals can protect PHI at all times, minimize the risk of data breaches, and avoid compliance penalties and related issues.
DICOM Director has introduced Store XR, a HIPAA-compliant PACS system that provides healthcare professionals with secure and seamless access to medical images. Store XR lets your facility secure MRI and CT scans in the cloud or on-premises. It also ensures authorized personnel can quickly and safely access these scans from any DICOM-compliant device. To learn more about Store XR, please contact us today.