About Lisa Dunn

Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.

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Author Archives: Lisa Dunn

Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.

Understanding the Move to Mobile and HIPAA

mobile HIPAA compliance

mobile HIPAA complianceAccording to a 2015 Statista study, approximately 81 percent of doctors use their smartphones for professional purposes.

And the results of another study revealed that 64 percent percent of doctors surveyed use text messaging to send and receive patient data among colleagues, such as patient diagnoses, test results, and medical advice.

There’s no question that mobile devices are incredibly useful to today’s healthcare organizations, especially when it comes to simplifying tasks and making processes more efficient.

However, the uptick in mobile device usage in the healthcare space is not without its risks. With thousands and thousands of devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops now requiring access to a healthcare network, HIPAA compliance and security have become some of the biggest issues for today’s health IT professionals.

Unfortunately, if organizations do not meet HIPAA requirements for mobile devices, hefty HIPAA fines can follow, and, even worse, patient data can be stolen.

Factoring in Mobile to Keep Patient Health Data Safe

The federal government put HIPAA in place in 1996 to ensure we have rights over our private health information, regardless of whether it is in paper or digital format. However, many people’s understanding of HIPAA compliance is limited to the original HIPAA Privacy Rule, which primarily focuses on how healthcare organizations may use and disclose protected health information (PHI).

HIPAA’s main objective is to protect patient privacy. Its regulations require healthcare organizations and healthcare providers to adopt a specific set of standards to protect patients and keep data secure.

Unfortunately, a surprising number of providers today using mobile devices do not insist on appropriate privacy protections to secure patient data. And even if an organization’s mobile devices are believed to be safe, there is significant potential for devices’ users to breach HIPAA rules. Without proper controls, devices can be compromised, and ePHI stored on them accessed by cybercriminals.

So, what can healthcare teams do to protect employees’ mobile devices and the personal patient information stored on them?

HIPAA offers some basic steps that organizations can take to protect healthcare information when using a mobile device. Below, we include several highlights from HIPAA’s information. It is essential to understand that if your organization is currently utilizing a HIPAA compliant service, incorporating these extra layers of security can be extremely advantageous when dealing with healthcare information on any mobile device:

  • Check all devices’ encryption technologies, antivirus protection and firewall to confirm they are functioning the right way and are up-to-date.
  • Protect all mobile devices with a password or authentication requirement.
  • Enable timeout features on your devices so that they log users out after a period of inactivity.
  • Disable file-sharing options.
  • Understand that text messages are not HIPAA-compliant. To make texting safe, you must make it compliant with privacy laws, including activating data encryption and developing a well-thought-out text message usage policy organization-wide.
  • Always investigate mobile apps before you install them. They should be from trusted sources. Check that your mobile patient portal, practice management tool, or customer relationship management (CRM) software’s mobile app is HIPAA-ready. You can find recommendations for mobile customer and patient tools at TechnologyAdvice.com.
  • Use a two-part login process, like both a password and a security question.

Additionally, if a team member’s employment with your healthcare organization terminates, follow the proper steps for erasing medical information before disposing of any mobile device.

It is also recommended to use caution when it comes to employee Internet usage. For example, if your staff members access insecure websites, they run a significant risk of exposing sensitive data transmitted from their device. With this in mind, make it a priority to train employees properly to avoid visiting insecure websites or Wi-Fi networks. You also can implement antivirus protection and a VPN on every employee’s phone to secure Wi-Fi communication.

Finally, it’s important to realize that the web browser itself on an employee’s phone could also be a source of vulnerabilities, and, in some cases, can lead to browser attacks, especially on Android devices. Ensure that your team members have the most current version of whatever web browser they use to avoid issues.

Protecting Patient Data is Your Organization’s Responsibility

Regardless of the kind of technology a healthcare organization uses to help provide care, they are obligated to protect PHI. If a tablet or mobile phone is used to access, transmit, receive or store information, it must have specific security precautions in place to ensure the data cannot be altered or destroyed. Also, controls must be put in place to allow any mobile device to be audited.  

As long as the appropriate security controls are put in place, the increasing use of mobile devices in the healthcare space has significant potential to improve productivity, boost efficiency and contribute to enhanced patient outcomes.

The key is to ensure that any mobile devices you use in the process do not put patient privacy at risk or give cybercriminals easy access into your network.

Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.

Giving Up Control: Letting the Patient Drive The Care

Today, a wide range of innovative personal and powerful mobile technologies are allowing us to take charge of our own health.

We now have access to countless mobile apps and devices that compile data and offer various health-related solutions. And wearable technology – like fitness bands and smartwatches that can track our movement, heart rate and other vitals – are also helping revolutionize how we care for ourselves.

However, while this easy access to personal health data helps level the playing field so we can make more informed decisions about our health, an equally important area is the continuously evolving relationship between patients and their providers. Driven by consumer demand and funds, health records available via wearables and apps are easily outstripping what providers are capable of managing. Whether providers start offering similar solutions to their patients or facilitate connections to their wearables to solve this problem, communication between patients, devices, and providers is still lacking.

According to a recent report, good doctor-patient communication makes a significant difference in overall patient satisfaction as well as in patient outcomes such as lower blood sugar values in diabetics, improved blood pressure readings, resolution of chronic headaches and many other critical health indicators.

This concept of patient engagement is a growing trend that is not going to disappear – it should be viewed as something that can benefit everyone involved, including both the health professional and the patient. One increasingly popular method of enhancing the provider-patient relationship is via online patient portals.

Fostering a Patient Participation Landscape

Many medical practices today are embracing user-friendly patient portals, helping them increase patient engagement as well as provide a more personal connection. Patient portals are an important part of the customer acquisition lifecycle, joining marketing automation tools and social media outreach as modern ways that practices use to attract new patients and keep them engaged with the practice’s main product: quality healthcare.

Often used as a supplement to the ongoing management of a patient’s care, a patient portal is a web-based access point that allows patients and providers to engage and share health information remotely. Patient portals give people the health-related data they need, like prescription information, doctors’ notes, patient networks, access to health history and essential records.
The result: patients and providers that share access to health information can collaborate more effectively and experience more informed decision-making.
With patient portal software, doctors can provide follow-up information following an office visit or a hospital stay, such as self-care instructions, reminder messages for follow-up appointments, as well as links to relevant online resources.
While the market is full of tools for patients to manage their health, patient portals are still the predominant technology in use for patients to connect with providers and collaborate on their healthcare.
Additionally, patient portal technology can help create an optimal communication path for providers and patients. Medical practices, for example, can manage appointment schedules electronically and exchange emails with patients. This quick, easy communication strategy can also help providers identify symptoms sooner and position them to be more proactive with patients.

Patient Portals: Three Advantages

Patient portals are a convenient and powerful way for providers, administrators and patients to work together as a team.
From chronic care and assisting patients to scheduling and billing, these tools have a wide range of benefits. Here are three advantages:

1. Encourages patients to drive their own care. Online portals give patients the tools to efficiently view their personal health data, helping to bridge the gap between their information and that of their health care team members. Details can range from app-collected data generated from wearable devices to family histories or recent symptoms. This crucial information gives doctors valuable insights into clinical issues and is a smart way to getting patients to become more active in their own healthcare.

According to recent research, patients who report having access to their own health data say they feel better prepared to interact with doctors about their own care.

2. Increased prescription adherence. According to one recent study, when patients have easy access to doctors’ notes – often via patient portals – they actually have increased rates of adhering to their medications and prescriptions because they are more engaged in and educated about their overall treatment plans.

3. Enhanced patient loyalty. When a patient portal is used, many medical providers report that the streamlined process helps increase their overall patient loyalty. For example, if you have an orthopedic-related issue and you have an ongoing relationship with an orthopedic surgeon, it can be extremely helpful to be able to continue the conversation after your office visit.

One athena Research study revealed that patient portal users tend to make a return visit to a practice within 18 months versus non-portal users.

In the Long Run, Better Outcomes

When patients have access to their health data, they become more informed. As a result, there is great opportunity to generate meaningful conversations regarding his or her overall health care.

Patient portal software allows patients to effectively and efficiently communicate with their medical team members about concerns that would otherwise necessitate an often-costly in-person visit.

Through easier and more frequent communication and engagement, patients feel more satisfied with their provider and overall care, which can ultimately lead to better outcomes in the long run.

Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.