Secured Vendor Access and HIPAA Compliance

Before the enactment of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996, paper files were still stashed in cabinets and sensitive data was typically transmitted by hand or via a fax machine.

After almost 25 years, , the healthcare industry looks entirely different, with the exception of the use of fax machines by some. Everything is now saved on computers and sent over the web. It is more efficient but there are some risks. Serious data breaches connected to healthcare entities increased resulting in the exposure of very sensitive personal health information (PHI). Many data breaches involve third-party and vendor access that cost more in terms of penalties and reputational ruin.

A hacker is able to easily access countless patient records and bring about extensive damage – releasing private data, deleting crucial health information, stealing identify, and attacking using ransomware.

Today, healthcare organizations not only deal with problems related to patient health care. There are now complicated cybersecurity problems beyond the medical environment that must be dealt with.

Taking into consideration the challenges of HIPAA noncompliance, healthcare organizations usually benefit from using the services of third-party vendors that particularly manage HIPAA regulatory compliance. To completely protect patients, vendors must have clear guidelines that limit access, continue to be transparent and auditable, and sustain the most up-to-date information security steps.

Importance of Limiting Vendor Access

Who can access patients’ data, how do they access the data, and how much data do they access (or should access)? These are vital concerns for technology vendors.

First, every member of the IT team must only get the level of access necessary to make sure HIPAA compliance and data security, which include constraints on time, extent, and job functionality. Every vendor rep must utilize a unique username and password to sign in to the system and undergo multi-level authentication that is linked to their personal details. In addition, an auto logoff when inactive for a brief period could stop unauthorized access using another person’s credentials.

The Necessity of Auditable Reports

An automatic audit program enables healthcare organizations to filter unauthorized access and to track the data breach source. An efficient audit system retains specific login data of each support connection system and provides comprehensive detail of each sign in, including place, time, personnel and extent of access to the patients’ information, and other sensitive data.

These reports are not just important for internal security reasons but are essential for showing HIPAA compliance in connection with permitting vendors to access your network.

The Value of Data Reliability and Security

The weakness in data security typically happens at access points and transmission. Nevertheless, frequent updates to security configurations secure data from problems and avoid data breaches during transmission. To maintain data integrity and security, the following are recommended:

  • advanced transmission standards (AES) in 128-, 192- and 256-bit modes
  • customer control of configurable encryption
  • data encryption standards (DES) of Triple DES10

The healthcare industry is responsible when patient data is compromised. Therefore, a third-party IT security vendor must know how to satisfy the highest standards of HIPAA compliance. Remote access to the network of a healthcare facility is often neglected. It could potentially result in data exposure and breaches. Make sure that your vendors have legit reasons to access your patients’ data and are HIPAA compliant.