Monday, November 25, 2013

Protecting Patients' Privacy: Data Security Mishaps

Patient privacy is a top priority for the medical community. Patient data should be virtually secured. It is critical that staff understands what security measures are required and how to implement and utilize those methods. 

Last Tuesday the Redwood Memorial Hospital announced that it lost a thumb drive that may have contained information on more than 1,000 patients. This information contained data that could lead to identifying individual patients. The thumb drive was not encrypted.  The hospital notified patients that are potentially affected and set up a hotline to answer questions related to the situation.

There were multiple factors leading to the security failure in this situation. The first, and most obvious breach is that all patient data should be encrypted. The second mistake leading to the leak is identifiable patient data should not travel offsite unless necessary to transfer information.

There are multiple ways to encrypt patient data. Facilities should have network security measures, two-factor authentications for individual computers, and encrypted portable devices.

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