Is Your Older Dental IT Infrastructure HIPAA Compliant?

If your practice is working on older or outdated IT infrastructure, you could potentially violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The costs can be damaging.

Is Your Older Dental IT Infrastructure HIPAA Compliant?

BYDaniel De Steno|November 8, 2021|Business IT Articles, News, and Tips

If your practice is working on older or outdated IT infrastructure, you could potentially violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The costs can be damaging.

Technology is an integral part of our daily lives and influences just about every aspect of business. Without equipment, or IT infrastructure, it is virtually impossible to utilize technology to achieve business goals. If the IT infrastructure is failing or not properly implemented and maintained, a dental practice will experience issues with connectivity, productivity, compliance, and security. The true cost of running older or outdated dental IT infrastructure can be found in disruptions, downtimes, and damaging breaches.

The technology and equipment used in dental offices have become more complex. But if your practice is working on older or outdated IT infrastructure, you could potentially violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). According to the HIPAA Journal, between 2009 and 2019, there were more than 3,000 healthcare data breaches involving more than 500 records, and resulted in the loss, theft, exposure, or impermissible disclosure of more than 230 million healthcare records.

 Dentists Must Be Aware

Many dental practices do not have the IT support they need. Some dentists consider their network to be just another piece of equipment, like a dental chair. They have the mindset to set up the equipment and go, not knowing the importance of properly maintaining and securing their IT infrastructure. Like all healthcare providers, dentists have a legal obligation to protect Patient Health Information (PHI) and their patients’ confidentiality.

Dentists spend at least 8 years in school to obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The extent of their scholastic tenure focuses on areas of dental health, not information technology. Often, dentists are not aware of the importance of their IT infrastructure and the importance of partnering up with a professional IT support company, like NOVA Computer Solutions, who specializes in the unique needs of dental practices.

There are three considerations dentists need to prepare for to prevent a data breach: physical theft of hardware and equipment, cybercriminals hacking into the system to steal data, and increasing ransomware attacks. One of the most common data breaches to occur with PHI between 2009 and 2019 was due to physical theft. To prevent physical theft, dentists should secure their hardware components by locking them in a closet, using a secure cable, or bolting them to the floor. Cybercriminal behavior is on the rise. The right network security measures need to be in place to safeguard sensitive data. Ransomware attacks will lock you out of your network and will ask you to pay a ransom to regain access to your information and PHI.

Dentists must be aware of HIPAA requirements to protect sensitive data and to avoid high violation penalties. The penalties for HIPAA violations can be severe. Violations are broken down into 4 Tiers.

  • Tier 1 – You were unaware of the HIPAA violation and by exercising reasonable due diligence which will result in $100-$50,000 per violation.
  • Tier 2 – There was a reasonable cause that you knew about or should have known about the violation by exercising reasonable due diligence which will result in $1,000-$50,000 per violation.
  • Tier 3 – You willfully neglected HIPAA rules with the violation corrected within 30 days of discovery which will result in $10,000-$50,000 per violation.
  • Tier 4 – You willfully neglected HIPAA rules and no effort was made to correct the violation within 30 days of discovery which will result in $50,000 per violation.

Your Dental Practice Needs an IT Service Provider to Help with HIPAA Compliance

Healthcare professionals, including dentists, that manage PHI must adhere to strict HIPAA policies to ensure their data is secure at all times. HIPAA requires healthcare providers to apply certain procedures, or safeguards, within their practice. HIPAA identifies these safeguards as Administrative, Physical, and Technical.

  • Administrative – policies and procedures to manage, develop, implement, and maintain security measures to protect electronic PHI and to manage the conduct of your workforce. This covers people, ask yourself:
    • What can I say and to who?
    • Is my Notice of Privacy Practices updated?
    • Is my staff trained on HIPAA? Is it documented?
  • Physical – physical policies and procedures to protect your electronic information systems and IT infrastructure from natural and environmental disasters and unauthorized intrusions. This covers physical theft, ask yourself?
      • Are all the doors locked at my practice?
      • Is my server located in a locked closet or bolted to the floor?
      • Is my server housed off-site, hosted in the cloud?
    • Technical – technology policies and procedures that protect electronic PHI and access control. This covers your network infrastructure, ask yourself:
      • Does my staff have unique logins to access my network
      • Is my Wi-Fi password protected
      • Do we email electronic PHI securely? Is it encrypted?

We understand that properly maintaining and securing your IT infrastructure, while ensuring you are HIPAA compliant, can be hard, time consuming, and even confusing. By working with a dedicated IT service provider, like NOVA Computer Solutions, you won’t have to worry about these things. You can focus on what truly matters, your patients.

To comply with HIPAA requirements, there are 3 ways an IT service provider can help your dental office technology:

  • Up-to-date software and hardware – If you don’t update your software often, you run the risk of being exposed to cyberattacks. You want to run the latest versions of all software and use the most recent versions of infrastructure. New versions of software are designed to patch vulnerabilities. Some older equipment will not be able to support new software or certain updates. A knowledgeable IT service provider will advise you on the updates and protections you need.
  • Multiple backups – The way in which we backup our data has evolved. In the event of ransomware or other cyberattacks, it’s important to have your sensitive data backed up for recovery. It’s best to have multiple backups, including off-site backups that rely on secure cloud-based technology and encryption. Your IT service provider will be able to set these up for you.
  • Basic protections and reliable IT support – Your IT service provider can offer many solutions like basic protections, which include malware, antivirus software, and firewalls. Daily maintenance will require great and reliable IT support to ensure everything is in the right place and functioning the way it should be.

NOVA Computer Solutions, a proud member of the Dental Integrators Association, is the top-rated dental IT services and computer networking support company throughout Northern Virginia, Metro Washington DC, and Maryland. Our expert team will provide continual IT maintenance and operational monitoring to deliver a user-friendly IT environment that is secure, stable, efficient, and HIPAA compliant.

You don’t have to handle or worry about all of this on your own. In fact, doing this yourself can actually slow your system down, if done improperly, and create areas for your data to be breached. Partner with NOVA Computer Solutions today by calling (571) 380-8017 or send us an email over to info@novacomputersolutions.com.

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