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The Importance of Health Information Privacy: Tips For Securing Private Health Data

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Importance of Health Information Privacy

We have all read about significant data breaches and cyber attacks involving personalinformation, such as the breach of 21.504.083 custormers’ personal data records from “Yemeksepeti”. A breach of our health data, however, is perhaps the most worrying of all the data that are at risk. As a result, the legislator has made it difficult for data controllers to process health data without seeking explicit consent of the data subject.

Data security in the healthcare sector is a difficult task. Healthcare providers and their business partners must find a balance between protecting patient privacy and meeting the strict regulatory requirements set forth by Personal Data Protection Law no.6698 and other regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Since protected health information (PHI) is among an individual's most vulnerable (and for criminals, valuable) private data, the rules for healthcare providers and other entities that process, use, or transmit patient information including strict data security provisions, that are enforced by serious penalties and fines if they are not met.

A review of recent healthcare security incidents reveals a diverse range of cases. We have seen reports of employees at hospitals browsing through medical records out of curiosity or posting information about patients on social media. There have also been cases where an individual's identification, financial, or insurance information has been compromised for personal benefit, such as to take out a mortgage or to receive medical care under another person's name (and on another person's insurance).

Healthcare organizations that take a proactive approach to implementing best practices for healthcare security are best equipped for continued compliance and at lower risk of suffering costly data breaches.

How To Protect Healthcare Data

1. Educate Healthcare Staff

Security awareness training equips healthcare employees with the requisite knowledge, which is necessary for making smart decisions and using appropriate caution when handling patient data.

2. Restrict Access to Data And Applications (Authorization Matrix)

Through limiting access to patient information and some software to only those authorized for doing their job, access controls improve healthcare data security.

3. Log and Monitor Use

Logs are useful for auditing purposes, allowing organizations to recognize areas of concern and, if possible, improving security measures. An audit trail can help organizations pinpoint precise entry points, determine the cause, and assess damages after an incident occurs.

4. Encrypt Data at Rest And In Transit

For healthcare organizations, encryption is one of the most useful data security methods. Healthcare providers and business partners make it more difficult (ideally impossible) for attackers to decode patient information by encrypting data in transit and at rest.

5. Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

Although having an audit trail will help in determining the cause and other essential details of an incident after it occurs, diligent prevention is also critical. Daily risk assessments may reveal weaknesses or weak points in a healthcare organization's security, as well as deficiencies in employee education and other areas of concern.



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