private medical information

How to Keep Private Medical Information Private on the Web

The digital transformation is opening up major opportunities in the healthcare marketplace. The global IoT (internet of things) is projected to grow over 400% in the next 6 years and create new services for patients and doctors alike.

But with all of this potential comes serious hazards as well. Web designers need to know more than the best design and development ideas when it comes to health websites now.

With all that additional patient data and access, there are more confidentiality risks. Staying in compliance with HIPAA laws requires a different strategy than with other markets.

Understanding the Risks

Cybersecurity is a risk in every business sector. With the complications of patient confidentiality and HIPAA, a data breach in healthcare is even more dangerous.

With digital tools, you can enhance the patient experience. You can connect via social media and give them unparalleled access and service.

But without the right precautions, you face a major threat of security issues and attacks.

A recent data breach in an Illinois hospital network exposed the confidential data of over 9,000 patients.

Unfortunately, hospitals and medical practices are even more vulnerable to attack than other businesses. Their data is more confidential and sacred and yet their defenses are more limited.

Hospitals and medical practices have trouble updating software and patches. They can’t risk disconnecting patient care and are running older systems as a result.

Important HIPAA Information

Professionals in healthcare have long recognized HIPAA compliance as an essential component of practices and processes. In order for web designers to best service clients, they need to recognize HIPAA laws as the foundation for every design.

While there is an increased need to make processes easier for patients, data security is a bigger need in healthcare.

Your clients want their patient’s confidentiality protected. Whether they search for STD testing locations or information about an infectious disease, no one should know.

Protected Health Information (PHI)

As you work with clients to address their website needs it is important to know what is covered under HIPAA laws.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the privacy rules cover specific information. This health information includes individually identifiable health information held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper or oral.

HHS and HIPAA call this information “protected health information (PHI).”

This information includes data that relates to the physical and mental health condition of each individual. It also covers what health care has been administered.

The PHI also protects the past, present, or future payment for the provision of healthcare.

Not Just For Healthcare Providers

Web designers should know that HIPAA compliance extends beyond just basic healthcare providers. If your clients are health plans, health care clearinghouses, or a health care provider they need to be HIPAA compliant.

This provides a great opportunity for web designers. As the marketplace evolves the need for designers with HIPAA experience will grow. Any healthcare provider that transmits electronic data is subject to the privacy rule and HIPAA laws.

These laws and compliance also need to extend to business associates. You can protect your clients with the best web designs.

Encrypting Data

One of the requirements for HIPAA compliance is encrypting data on a website. Any data that is stored regarding patient care and the privacy rules need to be encrypted.

This requirement extends for transmitting data as well. The risk of data being intercepted exists as it travels between patients and your clients.

Make sure stored and transmitted data will be encrypted.

Backup Storage

While your clients likely have a disaster recovery process in place you will still need to make sure there is a backup. HIPAA requires a full backup of all data transmitted to patients.

This data should be encrypted as with the above. Make sure you are in contact with the CIO of your client to adhere to their other business processes.

HIPAA Officer and Compliance

As web designers work with clients to make better patient portals they will also need to educate their clients. For a website to be HIPAA compliant it needs to say so.

Create a notice about the HIPAA compliance on the site you are updating or designing. In addition, your client will need to designate a HIPAA Compliance Officer.

As stated above, this person may be their CIO. But not necessarily so.

Without a HIPAA Compliance Officer, they won’t be in compliance.

Permanent Deletion

One of the bigger challenges for companies in the digital marketplace is managing data. With duplicate files and backup storage, data is an industry in itself.

But there is no grey area when it comes to HIPAA regulations. When an employee leaves their data must be permanently deleted.

Any work you do on a client website with patient data should have permanent deletion built into the process.

Using SSL

One of the more exciting changes in digital transformation concerns SSL technology. SSL, or secure sockets layer, need to be implemented on your website to be HIPAA compliant.

In addition to data encryption, SSL will protect the information of patients. The SSL certificate will need to be up to date and compliant with regulations.

However, many industry experts are noting that Blockchain technology could be poised to make SSL obsolete.

For web designers who are on the cutting edge, it’s important to stay ahead of industry trends. To remain compliant today use SSL.

But keep an eye on Blockchain to make passwords obsolete and protect data better in the future.

Preparing for the Future

Both the risks and the rewards of digital transformation processes will increase over time. Web designers can help their clients by preparing for the needs and creating a scalable design.

In addition to the IoT and an increased focus on patient care, machine learning is set to change the industry in the near future. As a result, there will be more data and a stronger need for secure servers and web design.

HIPAA compliance is only one part of the puzzle though. Web designers need a full set of tools and strategies to help their clients succeed.

Make sure you review our guidelines for health and wellness websites to get the most for your clients.