How to Use DLP to Secure PHI & Better Comply with Healthcare Regulations

Advances in technology have caused vast improvements to patient care in the healthcare industry. While healthcare administration has become more efficient, healthcare providers are able to offer improved patient care by reading patient data from sophisticated equipment in real time and being able to get specialists in different locations to offer professional advice on a specific patient’s treatment.

With this, of course, comes the risks involved with electronic data. Many of the publicized concerns, in the media particularly, lie with external threats, but almost half of all data loss happens internally, because of accidental or intentional and malicious release of sensitive information.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to use data loss protection (DLP) to better secure protected health information (PHI) in line with industry regulations.

What does PHI cover?

The key information covered in PHI includes, but is not necessarily limited to information about:

  • Health status
  • Provision of health care
  • Payment for health care

There are specific indicators, such as, in terms of location details, anything more specific than an individual’s state is protected. These can be found, as well as a full breakdown of the law, here.

Using DLP strategy

DLP strategy is much more than just rolling out expensive software for employees to use and ensure you’re covered. In fact, lawmakers will look at much more than just the technology employed if you are facing prosecution and liability for any internal data breach.

  1. Staff accountability

All staff, from HR personnel, to specialist healthcare professionals, IT departments and administrative staff should be on-board with the healthcare institution’s DLP strategy. They should understand it and be actively employing it. This means effectively communicating it to all staff through policies and procedures. Often some of these can be implemented in the actual DLP technology, meaning staff are getting real time updates on how they are using the DLP strategy, what they’re doing right and wrong, and how to improve.

  1. Identification and prioritization

Prioritizing how and what patient information should be deemed sensitive and how much DLP should be applied can be tricky. However, the laws around PHI help with this as they breakdown quite specifically what needs to be protected. From there, it is a matter of figuring out where that data lies and how the DLP technology can protect it.

  1. Audit, monitor and scale

It’s unrealistic to assume that a healthcare establishment, such as a large hospital, can protect every piece of information immediately. Budgeting and resource constraints get in the way. Additionally, new technology is always being implemented in the healthcare industry so rolling out a single DLP strategy that rigidly stays in place for the next decade will not do the job that lawmakers are expecting it to.

Instead, potential sources from which data can leak should constantly be assessed as they arise, data movement should be tracked to look for abnormalities and irregularities. And, audits should take place on how effectively the DLP strategy has been in ensuring the protection of patient information.

US lawmakers are serious about data loss protection in the healthcare industry and the laws around them are enforced, with individuals sometimes facing fines up to $250,000 if they are found to be liable. Ensure that your healthcare institution complies with industry regulations by working with your DLP company to create an effective, well-communicated strategy that protects you and, most importantly, your patients.