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Thursday, July 30, 2020 12:00 PM

How to Take a Proactive Approach to Increase Patient Privacy

Written by Rich Murphy, Product Director - iatricSystems

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Last year, there were 798 confirmed incidences of internal and external healthcare breaches according to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report. We read about these incidents virtually daily, and yet, instead of breach numbers reducing, the numbers continue to rise. Of those incidents, 48 percent were caused by insiders.

The types of breaches by insiders, while they may not always be malicious, could be for a multitude of reasons, that your privacy solution should be alerting you to.

In the ideal scenario, your team should be alerted if a user…

  • Gains inappropriate access to a patient’s information not under their care
  • Conducts unusual activities outside their typical behavior
  • Modifies their own records or the records of family and household members
  • Steals or misuses another employee’s credentials
  • Accesses clinical information after they’ve been terminated

So, whether it’s these scenarios above, or a number of others, even with technology in place, one thing keeping organizations from making headway on patient privacy monitoring is resources.

One of the effects COVID-19 has created is staffing challenges along with an increase of insider snooping. There’s simply a lack of resources to keep tabs on all user and patient data interactions. Because of this, most patient privacy programs are often reactive.

Many organizations find out about a breach after it’s too late. According to a recent report from Proofpoint, research shows healthcare and pharma entities spend $10.81 million annually on insider breach remediation. Careless employees or contractors caused the majority of these breaches at 62 percent.

Healthcare organizations need to take a proactive approach to privacy monitoring, and many are beginning to realize that they can’t do it on their own – this is where patient privacy managed services (PPMS) can step up to the plate.

In a nutshell, with a patient privacy monitoring solution, your PHI is protected under the use of technology and verified by humans. PPMS adds skilled consultants and privacy analysts to your team to optimize your patient privacy program by helping you achieve the following goals.

Safeguard Patient Privacy

To effectively monitor for violations across your organization, you have to look out for both “typical” and “abnormal” behavior. An employee – or even a team of people – doesn’t have time to do this manually.

Even if you have a solution to conduct on-going monitoring, a person would still have to go in and review every alert to see if it’s truly suspicious or inappropriate behavior.

Instead, with PPMS, privacy analysts take over this role to monitor PHI access, to monitor wrongful activity, and vet suspicious incidents for risks before they escalate it to your staff.

Maintain Compliance

Questioning your certainty of compliance isn’t a good feeling – especially if you’re formally audited by the Office of Civil Rights for HIPAA compliance. Having an expert conduct a HIPAA compliance analysis and risk assessment regularly can give you peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to protect patient data.

If you do get audited, you have the option of your privacy managed services to include support and assistance with routine audit reports.

Create a Dedicated Privacy Culture

When you put a plan in place for proactive monitoring, you’re showing your employees that you prioritize patient privacy and set the foundation for security expectations. You also have to keep in mind that not all abnormal activity has malicious intent.

The ability to identify behaviors of individuals and departments may reveal there’s a need for additional training on your privacy policies and procedures.

Patient care and privacy is your number one priority; that’s why it’s so important to take a step back to see if there are any areas where you can improve.

While you may have had a handle on privacy in the past, the new challenges of today make it more difficult to find time to proactively monitor users’ actions within a system.

We’re here to help – read our patient privacy managed services brochure or contact us at to discuss your unique challenges.