When deciding on an electronic health record (EHR) solution for an organization, providers need to choose between a server-based system and a cloud-based one. Additionally, EHR security has to be factored into this decision.
With cloud-based EHR systems, data is stored on external servers and can be accessed with any device that has an internet connection, while server-based EHR systems store data within the practice on a personal server.
This means that cloud-based EHRs are more inherently secure, but simply choosing the cloud isn’t enough on its own. Implementing specific EHR security measures remains crucial. Today we will discuss how you can protect patient health data through cloud-based EHR security measures.
7 Tips to ensure EHR security
Here are some tips for cloud-based EHR security.
1. Ensure HIPAA compliance
2. Use data encryption and data backups
Data encryption and backups are crucial for cloud-based electronic health records security. Encryption safeguards patient information from unauthorized access during transmission and storage, ensuring confidentiality.
Regular backups protect against data loss due to accidents or cyberattacks, ensuring data availability for patient care and compliance with healthcare regulations. These measures collectively bolster EHR security and maintain patient trust in the cloud-based healthcare system.
3. Enforce patch management
Cloud-based systems are operated by external SAAS providers, so practices utilizing these systems are generally operating on up-to-date servers (as automatic updates exist within cloud-based EHR systems).
Utilizing the most current version of the system allows for the ease and capability of staying in compliance with federal security guidelines. When using a cloud-based EHR system, make sure that your system is up-to-date and regularly receiving updates.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) advises that exchanging patient information electronically, submitting claims electronically, generating electronic records for patients’ requests, and e-prescribing are all examples of online activities that rely on cybersecurity practices to safeguard systems and information.
This is particularly true since an Internet connection is a necessity to conduct the many online activities that can be part of EHR and ePHI use.
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4. Implement solid cybersecurity practices
Cybersecurity refers to ways to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks against or unauthorized access to a computer system and its information. Cybersecurity protects patient and practice information, or any form of digital asset stored in a computer or in any digital memory device.
It is important to have strong cybersecurity practices in place to protect patient information, organizational assets, practice operations, and personnel, and of course to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.
The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) recently identified many of the top cybersecurity concerns that were “directly in the user’s control,” including:
- Identity and access management issues
- Cryptography shortfalls
- Poor configuration management
- Poor coding practices
- Ignoring cloud direction
The Health Information Management Working Group of the CSA recently also released guidance regarding the growing threat of ransomware in the healthcare cloud. Their report is intended to be used in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
The report states that “Due to the nature of the public cloud, where the underlying infrastructure is secured and managed by the cloud service provider, many customers incorrectly assume that the threat of ransomware in the cloud is less than in a private data center.”
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework identifies five cybersecurity cornerstones for organizations to use to mitigate risk:
CSA’s report follows the same structure, recommending that healthcare organizations identify and classify all of their IT systems, data, and software, allowing them to prioritize cybersecurity efforts and aid in response and recovery. The report states that “Prevention is the best defense against ransomware, and it is essential to implement controls for protection. To protect an organization’s cloud from ransomware, the place to start is with protecting the computer.”
Toward that goal, CSA recommends:
- Installing endpoint protection
- Filtering incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats
- Employing network segmentation to ensure separation between it and networked medical devices
5. Prioritize employee training and awareness
Human error is a very common cause of security breaches and is one of the biggest EHR security concerns. You should educate your staff about security best practices, phishing awareness, and data handling procedures to ensure that patient data is protected.
Taking the time to fully train your employees on your new EHR system will save you time, money, and headaches on possible future security issues.
6. Implement physical access control
To safeguard against EHR security concerns, physical access to servers and data storage facilities should be restricted to authorized personnel only. You should implement safeguards against theft, fire, and other disasters that could compromise the physical security of your patient’s data.
7. Form an incident response plan
In case of a security breach, you should have a well-defined incident response plan. This will help minimize damage and downtime during a security incident.
Your response plan should include defined roles, communication protocols, and escalation procedures. It must swiftly identify and contain the breach, isolate affected systems, notify stakeholders, involve legal and compliance teams, and implement corrective actions.
Choosing the Right Cloud-Based EHR Software
With all these tips on electronic health records security, you are well on your way to success with a cloud-based EHR system. Now all you need is the right software!
Elation's EHR software boasts robust security features like data encryption, access controls, and regular security audits to safeguard patient information. To experience these features firsthand, and enhance your practice's security, learn more about Elation EHR or book a demo of our EHR platform today.
What are the major concerns related to EHR security?
Major worries about EHR security include unauthorized access, data breaches, and cyberattacks, which can compromise patient privacy and the integrity of your healthcare system.
Ensuring secure storage, access controls, and encryption are crucial to address these concerns and maintain trust in electronic health records.
How secure are EHRs?
EHRs use safeguards like encryption and access controls to keep patient information safe. However, there's always a risk of breaches due to cyberattacks or human errors. Regular security measures and training can help keep EHRs more secure.
How can EHR systems ensure the secure sharing of medical records?
EHR systems can ensure secure medical record sharing by using encryption to protect data during transmission. They can also implement strict access controls, allowing only authorized healthcare providers to view patient records. Additionally, audit logs can be used to track who accesses the records.
What factors contribute to EHR security risk analysis?
Several factors contribute to EHR security risk analysis, including:
Data sensitivity: Identifying what patient information is most sensitive.
Threats: Evaluating potential risks like cyberattacks or data breaches.
Vulnerabilities: Assessing weaknesses in EHR systems.
Security controls: Analyzing measures in place to protect data.
User behavior: Understanding how staff handle patient data.
Compliance: Ensuring adherence to healthcare privacy regulations.
Combining these factors will help you to identify and mitigate EHR security risks.