What happens to PHI data right now during the pandemic? Who is it shared with? Who has access to it? What rights do patients have? Or medical providers?
A new bill has been presented in congress called the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act. It’s designed to protect health data collected during emergency situations. Among other things, it will:
- Require companies collecting data during a crisis to meet specific security standards, and to delete the data after the emergency is over
- Prohibit data collected for public health efforts from being used by government offices outside of public health efforts
- Allow Americans the right to choose whether to use digital tracking to share their location and determine if they have been in contact with others with the disease
- Forbid officials from requiring mandatory digital tracking to participate in elections
How is the coronavirus disease data collected?
As a medical professional, your life revolves around keeping your data safe. Safety matters whether you’re accessing it in a patient room, checking in with a mobile device, or buying new technology for the office. That’s just part of doing business.
Yet business has been anything but normal this year. If you’re in a nursing facility, for example, your data may no longer just be your own.
According to the CDC, the current coronavirus surveillance includes data sources from a variety of places, including existing influence and viral respiratory disease surveillance, syndromic surveillance, case reporting, commercial lab reporting, the healthcare system, research platforms, and other systems as they are created in response to the newest data.
While data is collected to understand the disease, help monitor the spread, and produce data for ultimately eradicating it from the population, there are a wide variety of ways in which this data can be used for unethical means. Hacking hasn’t slowed down, it’s increasing.
That’s why protecting PHI is more critical than ever.
3 things to think about as you reopen
Reopening isn’t something that’s going to happen quickly. Guidance is coming in from many different resources, and it’s rarely the same. We’re in uncharted territory. We’re making this up as we go along.
However, security guidelines have never been more important. While human safety is of vital concern, don’t forget about technology as well.
Establish confidentiality and privacy throughout - screening employees and patients will be a top priority as we come back together. That means tracking, so you know who has come in contact with someone with COVID-19, who has it, and the details surrounding it. While certain protocols are set aside during enforcement of COVID-19, HIPAA laws are still being enforced. Be sure you have an appropriate system in place for tracking, and that it is kept separate from your standard records for privacy concerns.
Consider legal implications - new laws are being formed daily, especially as practices reopen. How will paid sick leave be disbursed? What are the procedures for taking time away? How are you protecting the data you collect? Is technology for your new telemedicine practice safe and secure? There’s never been a more important time to get all of your ducks in a row. This means asking for help wherever you can, and finding resources that can shorten the learning curve on creating your next step.
Improve your technology - what about installing AI and infrared technology that can detect the health status of workers on the job? What about a new phone system that allows you to talk to patients from anywhere in the world (and stay HIPAA compliant in the process)? What happens to all of this data as it’s being collected? Now isn’t the time to push your technology upgrades to the backburner, waiting for things to slow down. Instead, this is the perfect time for new integration, to make your practice safer and more efficient.
What’s your biggest concern as we reopen and move forward?
For IT Strategy, Cloud Conversion, or Help Desk Services reach out to us at Silver Linings Technology 360-450-4759.