- On 28/05/2018
With the wealth of patient data available and the escalating incidents of data breaches, maintaining patient confidentiality is an ongoing challenge with many complex factors. Medical practitioners must ask: do we have the necessary infrastructure to protect patient confidentiality?
The numbers say it all: attacks on health data software “have increased 125% over the last 5 years”, and we can only imagine this to increase in the years to come. Furthermore, the implementation of the Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) scheme means businesses, with a turnover of more than $3 million, are legally required to must report data breaches to the individuals affected and to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).
Practical ways to protect patient confidentiality in Australian medical practices include:
• Establishing a through confidentiality policy for your practice. Practitioners must put into writing the best practice processes that ensure privacy. Every member of your staff must understand how to handle private patient information, and in a timely and appropriate manner. Regularly communicate your policy to your staff, ensuring everyone stays on the same page.
• Training your staff in IT security best practices. Patient confidentiality requires ongoing contribution from every staff member. This includes everyday best practices, including:
o Password protecting all devices used within the medical practice, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones. These are susceptible to theft, which presents a serious threat to privacy. Create a process to respond in case of theft, loss or damage.
o Creating guidelines for secure passwords. It’s crucial to enforce the fact that passwords should never be shared among team members.
o Implementing two-factor authentication on all accounts and devices.
• Communicating with partners to ensure privacy. Sharing clinical information securely is a crucial part of enhancing a connected ecosystem of care, with patients at the centre. Collaborate with your partners to evaluate how they handle private patient information that they’ve received, and discuss actionable ways to ensure patients understand how their data is being used.
• Investing in secure practice systems. The amount of patient data that your practice deals with will only increase. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest early in a robust, scalable and secure practice management software. The best systems will be intuitive to staff and handle information seamlessly.
This blog article is contributed by Clinic to Cloud, one of AMA (NSW) Future Practice Panel Members.
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