Protecting ePHI: A Change in Traditional PHI Security

HIPAA regulations demand organizations who qualify as covered entities to launch security measures that mitigate risk factors to a reasonable level. Stolen documents/goods and malfunctioning computers are common problems these days, and are reported on daily basis. If your organization deals with Protected Health Information, HIPAA stresses on considering careful measures that’ll mitigate security hazards.

How can one be certain that their patient data in the form of electronic health information is satisfactorily secured?There will always be a risk involved but steps can be taken to minimize it and make things work better.

This prompted the creation of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). As an extension of HIPAA regulations, ePHI covers all the demographic means that can be used to identify a patient. The HIPAA security rule sets specific standards for the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI. Electronic protected health information- ePHI is defined as any protected health information (PHI) that is created, stored, transmitted, or received in any electronic format or media in HIPAA regulation.

Gone are the days where providers would carry around pagers in order to be reached. Those pagers are now replaced with cellphones. Although there is no official piece of legislation dictating mobile phone usage, many organizations have taken the liberty of forming their own in-house policy in order to protect against a data breach.

Healthcare organizations can start off with risk assessment and evaluation in order to protect their ePHI. As technology continues to evolve, precautionary measure to identify the occurrence or likelihood of threats, threats identification and potential impact of threat will continue to pave a way for organizations to secure their ePHI.  

These simple rules are a great step toward ensuring that your practice is appropriately protecting any ePHI. Keep in mind that HIPAA is not a barrier towards good healthcare.

  1. Employees having access to patient data may use or disclose information only on a “need to know” basis.
  2. All ePHI must be secured and protected from any unauthorized breach, whether the data is at rest or in transit.
  3. Provide the minimum necessary information when responding to information requests.
  4. Do not use electronic media to copy or transmit information unless you are specifically authorized to do so.
  5. Do not disclose patient information with others unless it is administratively or clinically necessary to do so.
  6. Implement technical security measures, such as encryption, to guard against access to ePHI that is unauthorized.

The HIPAA regulation uses strict guidelines in order to protect patient information. It is vital for every healthcare organization to periodically review their policies and procedures in order to prevent any accidental invasion of patient privacy. ePHI is an actively evolving aspect of HIPAA and one that should be taken under serious consideration when implementing any new or updated infrastructure in the work space.