Regardless of your industry, security is essential. The ability to secure data and control access are two key factors in the success of any project. HIPAA compliance requires both. After all, it’s how you avoid legal repercussions in the event of a data breach or user protection violation.
So what makes healthcare security so difficult? And how do you make your healthcare platform HIPAA compliant? Let’s explore.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a set of standards that are used to guard the security, privacy, and transmission integrity of private patient information. Software developers must adhere to HIPAA standards when writing software that accesses or transmits this type of data.
Achieving HIPAA Compliance in Your Healthcare Software: Best Practices
It is not difficult to make your custom healthcare software HIPAA compliant. Here are some best practices to follow.
1. Encrypt all patient health information
Encryption scrambles the contents of a message, file, or disk to make it unreadable without proper encryption keys. This is one of the most important things you can do as a software developer to protect private data. In fact, HIPAA requires developers to encrypt all patient data that is moved from one location to another.
2. Avoid storing patient health information wherever possible
The less patient data you store, the better. As a developer, it is important that only authorized users have access to sensitive data, especially in healthcare software systems which manage patients’ personally identifiable information (PII). Try storing PII using an encrypted database or document storage platform like Hadoop.
3. Utilize one-way, irreversible encryption for passwords
Use an irreversible cryptographic hash function to store sensitive data, such as account passwords. This makes it impossible for hackers to decipher the original password value even if they manage to guess it correctly.
4. Require users to change their passwords whenever their accounts are accessed from a new device
Requiring users to change their passwords after logging in from a new device ensures that any hacker who has correctly guessed the password is locked out.
5. Use multi-factor authentication where possible
Users can be granted access to software services with several different types of credentials, including passwords and tokens. The more ways users can gain access to sensitive information, the more vulnerabilities you will have in your system. Multi-factor authentication requires at least two of these methods to unlock an account or gain access to data.
6. Log events and alert administrators when anomalous activity is detected
Anomaly detection systems work by analyzing user behavior against a known baseline of regular activity. If the system detects something unusual, it will display an alert to any administrator who can investigate and resolve the incident.
7. Require users to change their account passwords every 90 days for high-risk accounts
Passwords are one of the weakest links in information security. Because they’re relatively short and easy to guess, they’re often used by hackers to gain access to sensitive data. This is why it’s important for users with high-risk accounts (such as system administrators) to change their passwords every 90 days or so.
8. Regularly update software components associated with security, encryption, and authentication standards
Hackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit, but you can reduce their chances of success by always adhering to the latest security standards. Security updates are especially important if your healthcare platform offers video conferencing, where sensitive info can easily be exposed if hacked. This means keeping your software components up-to-date, but it also applies to implementing new security protocols as they are developed.
Securing patient data is a top priority for both developers and healthcare organizations. By following the guidelines in this article, you can ensure that your software platform protects patients’ information throughout its entire life cycle. A solid HIPAA compliance strategy can help to work around any issues with your backend system so you do not have downtime or loss of valuable records.
Along with the technical aspects of HIPAA compliance, you should also work hard to build trust with your users. The ability to secure their data is just one part of the equation; you must also be able to demonstrate that security measures are in place through audits and testing. If you can reassure patients that their information is safe, they will feel more comfortable using your software platform.
Zara Raza is the Head of Marketing at Sunvera Software. She has written several blogs on technology, software, marketing, education, business, and more.