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Best Practices for Keeping Patient Data Confidential

Ensuring health data privacy is essential for providers to build meaningful and lasting relationships with their patients.

Patient Data

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- There’s nothing easy about being a healthcare provider in the United States, especially when it comes to health data privacy.

From working long hours and dealing with insurance, to abiding by a myriad of government laws — healthcare providers never have a shortage of to-dos.

Though there’s a constant flow of urgent tasks to think about, one thing that’s been — and always will be — top of mind is making sure that patient information is secure and private.

When you as a provider can promise that your patient’s private information actually stays private, you earn her trust, build solid relationships, and make your organization more credible. The effect helps differentiate you from other healthcare providers.

Check out a few tried-and-true best practices for maintaining patient privacy and ensuring their information is safeguarded to the highest degree.

Let Your Patients Know They’re the Priority

Let’s face it: If you didn’t have loyal patients, you wouldn't be a successful healthcare provider. Patients are the lifeblood of any clinic, practice, or hospital out there.

The patients you serve want to know you care about them, so make sure to tell them. People don’t always feel comfortable voluntarily giving out their personal information, so be open about why you’re asking for it. Let them know how you plan to use it, how it will benefit them, and, most importantly, how you’ll protect it.

Being honest with your patients shows that you’re putting in extra effort — that you care on another level and that you’re providing more than just medical support. Honesty and openness about information collection will set the tone for a positive relationship. If your patients happen to have any qualms about your data collection process, they can ask questions and talk to you about them. When patients know they can trust you, they’ll keep coming back.

Use HIPAA-Compliant Software

We all know that HIPAA compliance is crucial to keeping patient information protected. But many organizations haven’t made the shift from collecting patient data via paper to trusted software solutions.

According to BBC, “less than 10% of the world's data is currently stored in the cloud.” Ten percent is pretty low and that shows that many individuals are unsure about taking the next step into software as a service (SaaS) technology.

The main reason for hesitation about software and cloud-based solutions is that healthcare providers are unfamiliar with them. With cybersecurity breaches constantly highlighted in the media, it feels like the only way to keep data safe is to lock it in a file cabinet and store it behind the front desk.

But this is a common misconception. Data collected by software and stored in the cloud is secure, especially when all pieces of the puzzle are HIPAA compliant. Organizations that choose HIPAA-compliant software simplify their entire patient information collection process while also being safe about it.

With HIPAA-compliant software, you have the ability to automate your whole data collection, data management, and work tracking processes. There’s a whole suite of HIPAA-compliant software, such as online form builders, work-tracking services, and data management apps.

When your data is collected through HIPAA-compliant software, you save precious time, can process patient information quicker, and have easier access to patient records — all the while having top technology bolstering your patient privacy initiatives.

Conduct an Audit of Your Own

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and accidentally do something that compromises patient privacy. There are too many horror stories of healthcare organizations and employees getting slapped with lengthy trials, hefty fines, and in some cases, even jail time.

A way to avoid this type of mess is to triple check that your organization and staff are not only HIPAA compliant but also abiding by other privacy laws.

HIPAA compliance is something that’s reiterated over and over again, but it’s an amorphous concept. Sometimes it’s not totally obvious if what you’re doing is right or wrong. If you’re even the slightest bit unsure about your organization’s compliance, hire a third-party auditor and get checked out. The high penalties are never worth the small amount of money it costs to make sure you're compliant. When you do an audit on your own, you’ll be well prepared in case you actually get audited.

Besides checking that your organization’s HIPAA compliance is up to par and the like, it’s good to stay in the loop with the latest healthcare news. Healthcare laws and regulations change constantly. Setting up reminders, such as Google Alerts, that can be sent directly to your email will keep you informed and get you ready to take action if need be.

When you make a patient’s health data privacy a top priority in your organization, you not only reap the benefits of being a credible, trusted provider, but you also set yourself apart from the rest.

About the author

Aytekin Tank is the Founder and CEO of JotForm, an easy-to-use data collection tool that offers HIPAA-compliant online forms for healthcare providers for as low as $39/per month. Follow him on Twitter: @aytekintank

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