There’s a lot of confusion around health records and their security. While laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provide some protections, your medical data may not be as secure as you’d think.
As cybercrime against healthcare companies rises, electronic health record safety has taken center stage. Here, we’ll discuss why your health records are important and what you can do to keep them safe.
Why Do You Need to Protect Your Health Records?
Health records are sensitive information, which makes them valuable to cybercriminals. Since patients and medical organizations want to keep it private, criminals know they can make a lot of money by stealing it. Consequently, Mandiant reports that 20 percent of ransomware victims today are in the healthcare industry.
Medical data has also become more vulnerable as the industry has gone digital. Health apps and telehealth services are now widespread, and while they’re convenient, they give hackers more opportunities to steal this sensitive information.
Electronic health record safety is about more than keeping sensitive info private, too. If a cybercriminal has access to your health data, they could alter these records. That could lead doctors to misunderstand your medical history and make mistakes in the future, possibly endangering your health.
How Secure Are Your Health Records?
Laws like HIPAA and state cybersecurity regulations require some health data protections. However, the most stringent of these rules don’t apply across every service in every state, and accidents can still happen. As reported by TechCrunch, a breach in healthcare startup myNurse recently exposed at least 500 patients’ health information, highlighting how data can still be vulnerable despite legal security requirements.
Medical companies collect a lot of data, partly because they need lots of information to form a complete picture of your health. According to Rasmussen University, companies can also keep these records for five to ten years after your last treatment, increasing the window where your information is vulnerable to cybercrime.
Regulations in many areas have yet to catch up with current cybersecurity needs. As a result, just because a hospital or app meets all the legal benchmarks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily secure. It’s still a good idea to take electronic health record safety into your own hands.
4 Ways to Improve Electronic Health Record Safety
Hospitals and medical apps should do more to ensure their health data management is secure. Until the industry has more up-to-date security standards and laws, you can take some steps to improve your privacy. Here are a few ways to improve electronic health record safety.
1. Minimize the Data You Share Online
The first and arguably most important step is to limit what you share. If you don’t have many digital health records in the first place, you have less to lose in a data breach. That doesn’t mean you should keep anything from doctors, but be careful about how and where you insert your health data.
It’s generally better to submit any needed health information in person instead of using an app. Using an electronic service creates more vulnerabilities, and it’s easier to protect data when it’s in one place than when it’s moving. Consequently, you should always think carefully about what you enter on health apps.
Be even more cautious on social media. The US Department of Health and Human Services warns that information in your posts may remain online permanently, and social media lacks the same controls as health services.
2. Use Reliable, Secure Services
Look for security controls like in-transit encryption, which keeps data secure as it travels between your device and the company’s servers. Businesses that hold your information for less time and collect less upfront are also ideal.
Look for transparency, too. If a service is unclear about its data policies or doesn’t say much about its security, avoid it.
3. Practice Good Password Management
Another important way to improve electronic health record safety is to use strong passwords. According to the Bank of North Dakota, weak or stolen passwords are responsible for 81 percent of hacking-related breaches, yet 59 percent of people reuse passwords across multiple sites.
Use long passwords with multiple characters and numbers on any account where you have health records. Remember to vary these between sites, too. If you use the same one in multiple locations, a hacker could get your password from one site and use it to access another account. Changing your passwords regularly will reduce these risks even further.
It’s best to use multi-factor authentication (MFA), too. This extra step ensures that even a stolen password isn’t enough to get into your account.
4. Keep an Eye Out for Data Breaches
Some laws require companies to tell you if your data might’ve been in a breach. However, these regulations don’t cover everything, so monitoring your data yourself is safer.
While you can’t look through a health app’s network activity, you can notice some suspicious signs. Check your credit reports and bank statements regularly to see if anything unusual pops up. Call your bank or credit bureau to freeze your credit or account if you see transactions you don’t remember. You can then work with them to look into them to see if it’s a matter of stolen data.
Unexpected charges from healthcare apps or hospitals are another possible sign of hacking. Look at these records often to spot abnormalities, and report anything suspicious as quickly as you can.
Electronic Health Record Safety Is Essential Today
Electronic health record safety is becoming a bigger concern as telemedicine and health apps grow. While risks are everywhere, you can use these services safely if you know what steps to take.
Your health records may not be as secure as you think, and cybercriminals like to target this information. Following these steps will help you keep this data as safe as possible, mitigating that risk.