Cybersecurity: Is your patient information, practice protected?
"Stop. Think. Connect." It's the message a national cybersecurity awareness campaign hopes resonates with an evermore digitally connected public. But when it comes to doctors, a more apt slogan would read: "Stop. Think. Protect."
That's because patient health and financial information is the newest target for cybercriminals as data breaches afflict the health care industry's relatively lax cybersecurity measures, most recently with dizzying results.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a collaborative campaign between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Cyber Security Alliance to educate Americans about safe and secure online practices. It's an appropriate time to review the steps doctors are taking to ensure the information entrusted to them doesn't fall in the wrong hands.
Data breaches can be financially devastating. That's because HIPAA requires doctors to notify patients when their data has been compromised—a process that can cost $30 per record, according to Kevin Johnson, vice president of Lockton Affinity, an AOAExcel® endorsed business partner. For practices with thousands of records, complying with the law can be financially onerous.
To protect patient data and your practice from cyberattacks, follow these recommendations:
- Ensure electronic patient information is encrypted. Basic passwords won't cut it when it comes to hi-tech hackers, so activate the encryption program that most electronic health record (EHR) systems already offer.
- Perform a risk analysis to evaluate potential for cyberattack. Not all software is created equal—as doctors of optometry investigating EHR vendors can attest—and older model computer operating systems (OS) might not be HIPAA compliant any longer due to end of support.
- Add peace of mind with cyberliability insurance. Protect business functions online, including operating the practice website and storing confidential patient records with cyberliability insurance available from AOAExcel.
- Review the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. Doctors of optometry who transmit information in an electronic format, such as a claim to Medicare or other payers, are considered covered entities under HIPAA, and should be aware of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.
Learn more ways to circumvent risks to your patients and practice.
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Doctors of optometry may enroll their paraoptometric staff as associate members at no additional membership dues for the AOA-member doctor. Once enrolled as associate members, doctors' staff members automatically have access to the Paraoptometric Resource Center's career development resources.