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How healthcare organizations meet HIPAA and PCI compliance

Roger Billings

How healthcare organizations meet HIPAA and PCI compliance

Network solutions can provide patient data security, financial protection & key support

Healthcare organizations are acutely aware of the many HIPAA and PCI regulations governing their industry. Compliance challenges include keeping medical and financial data accessible yet secure, and making the most of limited resources in the face of potentially expensive solutions. Leaders in the field recognize that evolving network technologies are necessary for ensuring and affording compliance. They must be proactive in their designs to ensure compliance, rather than being reactive after the fact.

Technology solutions can allow healthcare organizations to remain HIPAA and PCI compliant in several key ways:

Privacy & Data Security

The primary focus of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is to ensure the privacy and security of medical information while making it easier to transfer from provider to provider in a secure way. Protecting patient records is critical, as the records have become an increasingly valuable target over time. In fact, Reuters recently reported that “your medical information is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market.”

Many healthcare organizations struggle to apply the correct security standards in environments such as mobile healthcare; at small clinics; or in small, independent physician’s offices. Medical professionals who operate and work within a mobile blood bank, for example, frequently set up at a different site every day. This raises questions about how they will connect to a network in different locations; whether they can securely transmit health data remotely to thedata center; and whether personal health information will be stored on laptops and mobile devices that could be breached, lost, or stolen. 

Fortunately, software-defined WAN solutions can provide the level of privacy and data security required by HIPAA. Mobile workers can stay connected to the network via flexible, highly available SD-WAN, meaning they no longer must store patient medical records on devices such as laptops, which present significant security risks if lost or stolen. Instead, healthcare organizations can store patient records in the cloud, thereby allowing access and transmission but not actual possession of patient medical information whenever a mobile care provider needs it.

Cloud-delivered, software-defined network solutions such as NetCloud Perimeter — which combines strong end-to-end encryption, auto-PKI, and machine authentication with a fully cloaked private address space and microsegmentation capabilities — offer the security of a private network over the public Internet.

From a hardware standpoint, Cradlepoint routing solutions also make it possible to create completely separate, Parallel Networks, which keep data subject to HIPAA compliance on a completely different network from, for example, the network that employees use to access their email. This air-gapped separation helps mitigate the possibility that a hacker could gain access to patient health records by breaching a weakly secured or risky application. 

From a hardware standpoint, Cradlepoint routing solutions also make it possible to create completely separate, Parallel Networks, which keep data subject to HIPAA compliance on a completely different network from, for example, the network that employees use to access their email. This air-gapped separation helps mitigate the possibility that a hacker could gain access to patient health records by breaching a weakly secured or risky application. 

Financial Protection

While HIPAA compliance is focused primarily on healthcare organizations, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance standards must be met across all industries. Essentially, any company or organization that accepts credit card transactions must meet and follow strict guidelines around security and data protection.

Healthcare organizations must manage PCI requirements in ways that support and work with HIPAA compliance measures. Fortunately, the same Cradlepoint solutions that enable HIPAA compliance also help organizations meet PCI compliance requirements.

A care provider who visits a patient at home, for example, can process any necessary payments on the spot through the same secure laptop and network connection she is using to access and update the patient’s medical record. Also, patients making payments at a clinic, doctor’s office, or even emergency department can rest assured that their financial transaction and data is kept secure throughout the entire payment process.

In addition, ensuring your healthcare organization is both HIPAA and PCI compliant also provides financial protection by eliminating the costly fines, fees, legal penalties, and other expenses that may result from compliance violations.

Big Support for Smaller Clinics

Given the complexity of HIPAA and PCI requirements, it’s no surprise that even the biggest healthcare organizations struggle with compliance. For smaller clinics, medical offices, and providers with limited resources, these compliance challenges can seem even more overwhelming.

Instead of presenting a challenge, however, software-defined networking technology present a cost-effective solution. With Cradlepoint solutions, healthcare organizations can deploy a VPN that allows a therapist with an individual practice the ability to ensure a secure financial transaction at the end of a patient’s session. Additionally, the therapist can securely store and share patient records with other providers — such as psychologists, hospitals, and emergency responders — while keeping communications private and secure, too.

As it becomes increasingly expensive for small-scale practitioners to take on the risk of being noncompliant, network solutions that simplify the building and management of network infrastructure can mitigate risk and present a secure, cost-effective, reliable solution for HIPAA’s and PCI’s complex requirements.

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