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1/24/2012
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7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security

Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. Consider these tools and tips for protecting patient data and managing breaches.
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Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices can help facilitate better communication and more extensive patient-caregiver interaction. But they're also easy to lose and more challenging for IT departments to manage.

In fact, mobile devices--including laptop computers, flash drives, and other portable gear--have been involved with some of the largest Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) breaches to date affecting 500 or more individuals, according to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, which tracks those incidents on a data breach reporting website that healthcare players have dubbed, the Hall of Shame.

At the same time, healthcare providers have a lot more to lose besides their reputations when it comes to HIPAA violations: Under the HITECH Act, HHS now can impose penalties of as much as $1.5 million annually per organization--per hospital or doc practice--for violating HIPAA privacy rules.

Unfortunately, many of the largest data and security incidents--as well as large HIPAA breaches involving paper documents--have been caused by human error, according to HHS. But besides improving training of staff about best practices for protecting patient data privacy and security--and not allowing any sensitive data to be stored on mobile devices themselves--healthcare organizations can tap an array of vendors' software and other products to safeguard protected health information. Here's a look at some of those tools.

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