Everything You Need to Know About Healthcare Data Security

  Did you know that healthcare data violations can have extremely heavy criminal and civil penalties attached to them? For example, if people don't realize the seriousness of their violations, they could potentially be landed with the largest fee of $1.5 million! Already, this should be enough for anyone in the industry to make sure that they are fully in the know about healthcare data security. Especially the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). But what is HIPAA exactly? And, what are the key things I need to know about all this? Well, in this article, I will inform you of everything you need to know about data security in a clear manner. Plus, I'll run you through HIPAA and the key information about how you can remain compliant with its standards. So, if you don't want to be dangerously in the dark on this topic, please read on¦

Why HIPAA Is Important

It might surprise you that there were close to 200% more healthcare data records breached in 2019 than in 2018! That's a huge leap which in real numbers was just over a whopping 41 million patient records being breached in 2019 - according to information found through the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights (OCR). With these figures rising dramatically, and onward into 2020, it's no surprise that more and more healthcare providers are becoming penalized. And, this also applies to healthcare plans and clearinghouses. To fully understand healthcare data security and how it has evolved, you really need to know about HIPAA...  HIPAA is a federal law that was passed back in 1996. Essentially, it mandated the making of national privacy and security laws that protect a patient's confidential data from being disclosed. This is at least without the patient's knowledge. Basically, if you don't follow HIPAA requirements, you're risking a huge range of violations. They start from $100 right through to the $1.5 million that I mentioned earlier. Plus, there are several penalties between that all have pretty hefty price tags to deal with. So you might think, why not just get HIPAA certified?

Can You Get HIPAA Certification?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as HIPAA certification. Instead, many guidelines need to be learned about protected healthcare information (PHI). Furthermore, there are certifications out there that cover some or all the aspects of HIPAA, when bundled together. The clear solution is¦ Go with a professional training provider that can offer a bespoke and very relevant training package. The idea is it's a training package to keep you compliant with up-to-date HIPAA mandated guidelines. And wouldn't it be great if there were HIPAA training packages to suit specific roles within the healthcare industry? Let's face it, not all health care workers might need to know the business side of protecting patient confidential data. And the opposite goes for health care business associates, that probably will never deal with confidentiality in the same way as healthcare workers. Either way, a HIPAA training course for a whole range of healthcare-related professions would do well to include some of the following criteria:

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule training
  • HIPAA Security Rule training
  • HIPAA Enforcement Rule training.

The above criteria are all subsets of HIPAA as a whole, and I think they are essential aspects that need to be covered in these types of training courses. Additionally, an ideal course should include any 2020 and 2021 updates. This is to ensure that as a healthcare provider or organization, you're not running any costly future risks without knowing!

Healthcare Data Security Procedures

Learning about data security law in the healthcare business isn't going to help much unless an organization knows how to achieve compliance through practical and effective solutions. There is a range of procedures that are relevant to an organization for maintaining good practice within HIPAA guidelines with their PHI. For example, many healthcare data security companies will give you advice and tools to:

  • Track and trace files that contain PHI
  • Allow limited access to PHI within your organization
  • Teach you how to keep separate records of compliance
  • Regularly check data security for any issues
  • Make backup plans - if compliance becomes broken
  • Vet business associates to ensure they are HIPAA compliant
  • Prepare data breach procedures

Although, you don't necessarily need a healthcare data security company to come in if you have a good training provider. I'm talking about a training provider that not only informs you on HIPAA laws but also one that provides you with clear-cut strategies on how to consistently remain compliant. With a good training program, you should also gain excellent advice on the best healthcare data security software to use too.

But Who Actually Enforces the HIPAA?

We've already mentioned the OCR, and they are the enforcers. Furthermore, we should mention a good little tip is to keep track of their Newsroom for news releases and bulletins about HIPAA. A small example of them enforcing their rule of law is on this very newsfeed... Back on December 22, Elite Primary Care "...agreed to take corrective actions and pay $36,000 to settle a potential violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule's right of access standard." I chose the above example as a warning to smaller healthcare organizations that it can happen to them as well! It's not just big business that suffers when they aren't compliant. It's also worth checking out their Enforcement Data page to see other cases with various consequences. There is, however, someone else who can enforce these laws. But, we'll come to this later...

Data Breaches

The average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million, according to Ponemon Institute - sponsored by IBM. And just so you know, this report has become a strong and trusted industry indicator for such information. Yet worryingly, the healthcare industry is at the top of the worldwide rankings at an average cost of $7.13 million. This is significantly above the energy and then financial sector. So not only will you have to contend with penalties if you aren't compliant with HIPAA, but if there's a data breach it could almost certainly be more costly in other ways. More specifically, I'm talking about civil lawsuits here. But actually, one of the real reasons why healthcare is the highest on this list is because it has higher regulatory bars. Therefore, I can't stress anymore how important it really is for all healthcare organizations to ensure they get the most up-to-date PHI advice and training.

Think About the Patient-Side

It's also worth noting that healthcare organizations will likely suffer hugely, on the patient trust side of things, if they don't manage their protected healthcare information properly through HIPAA guidelines. How do you think a patient will react if they learn that their personal information has been breached? It's certainly not going to be good for business - especially if they learn this information from another source. And I did say earlier that someone else can enforce HIPAA...


The Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health Act (HITECH), broadens the extent of privacy and security protections under HIPAA. Therefore it's very relevant in my discussion about healthcare data security. In 2009, it was put in place to increase the legal liabilities for non-compliance and it also added more enforcement actions. Enforcers of civil action... The State Attorneys General was given authority through this Act to put forward civil actions representing state residents that have been affected by violations associated with HIPAA laws. They also have the power to obtain any damages for these residents. So, it's thoroughly important that healthcare providers and other relevant organizations get to grips with HITECH.

How to Trust a HIPAA Training Provider?

I'm back onto the training again because, with the vast array of information that's contained in HIPAA law, it is essential. The question is, how do you trust a HIPAA Trainer when there are a lot out there?  A simple answer is: Go with IACET accredited providers. There are very few providers that are accredited with this badge. And, since there is no official HIPAA certification, it is important to choose a training provider with international accreditation - so it's known how they conduct their activities on an international scale. Moreover, this type of accreditation should help ensure that accurate, verified, and legitimate information is being passed on. This is because IACET has a reputation to conduct rigorous testing. Plus, it requires high-quality standards. And it carries out thorough review processes in all its activities with the training providers they work with. At the very least, it's a good indication that a trainer has undergone a good level of scrutiny and tests of professionalism. On the flip side, going with an unaccredited provider could be very risky. Besides, when you think costs of being caught non-compliant to HIPAA laws, it should be well worth investing in IACET accredited HIPAA training.

Other Healthcare Data Security Concerns

In our modern age, there are more factors concerning healthcare data to consider - other than the ones we think of traditionally such as doctor-patient confidentiality. A good example is wearables. Also known as mobile health devices or wearable health devices, there is growing concern about the security and privacy of personal information that flows through these devices. Liezel Cilliers at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa, conducted a study whereby she investigated "the privacy and information security issues to which users are exposed when using wearable health devices." Her findings showed: "Half of the respondents did not understand the need to protect health information. There also appeared to be a general lack of awareness among respondents about the information security issues surrounding their data collected by wearable devices." This is worrying news, even if the HITECH Act is meant to promote the meaningful use and adoption of information technology in healthcare. The problem is, there are new technologies and ways of recording patient data all the time.

Is Blockchain the Answer?

Blockchain is being considered and developed in healthcare at a rapid pace. Here's a paper published in 2019 that explores blockchain in healthcare as a patient-centered model. But when you think about it - blockchain could be the rising star for healthcare data security in all its facets and forms - because of its renowned effectiveness in keeping information secure. Most likely, if systems are rolled out using this technology, they'll be incorporated into HIPAA laws through the HITECH ACT. And on a more positive note, there might be a lot fewer lawsuits and penalties forced upon healthcare organizations. Plus, patients may just have better peace of mind if this tech is implemented cleverly and effectively. Yet, I'm quite sure there are still many future challenges ahead for the healthcare data's security in the coming decades...

Final Thoughts

Healthcare data security is evidently a complicated and costly business at the moment. It doesn't have to be... With a preventative approach to protecting healthcare data within an organization, a lot of risk and potentially hefty penalties, as well as lawsuits, can be alleviated. Act now, get the professional HIPAA training from an accredited provider, and ensure the survival of your healthcare organization - whatever its size is. I think until blockchain peaks its head around the corner, there's nothing better you can do. And even then, nothing is certain. And of course, any healthcare provider or similar organization worth their salt should have their patients at heart. Thanks for stopping by!