April 30, 2019

Three Steps To Elevating Your Healthcare Privacy Program

Teresa Burns

Innovation is often a dirty word for healthcare compliance and privacy departments. Even still, if privacy professionals become open to innovative thoughts, strategies, and processes, it may help them to “clean-up” their programs and improve the efficacy of their privacy initiatives. But how do we weave innovation into the daily lives of our privacy and compliance teams? This challenge is particularly acute in healthcare, which is rife with regulations and laws that often conflict with and, in the words of many caregivers, get in the way of patient care. Here are three steps to effectively innovate in healthcare privacy and compliance in order to increase team efficiency and ensure patient trust.

Step One:  Use technology to your advantage

Those of us tasked with ensuring the privacy of patient information have likely responded to skeptical caregivers as to whether protecting our patients’ data is an integral part of providing quality patient care. It is very much an integral part of patient care as building and maintaining patient trust often begins with ensuring that their most sensitive information will be kept private.

Health data breaches are occurring on a daily basis, with more than 500 incidents reported in 2018. While the regulatory fall-out from these violations to patient privacy can have severe monetary effects on a hospital or health system, the breach of patient trust, along with the potential reputational harm to the institution, can be even more devastating. Utilizing AI-powered technologies, such as healthcare compliance analytics, has the ability to greatly reduce the number of these breaches, assist with regulatory compliance and allow privacy teams to return focus to larger organizational priorities.

Utilizing AI to reduce breaches to patient privacy not only catapults privacy programs into the desired proactive privacy posture, it also elevates those privacy programs to the next level of compliance. Industry-leading platforms, like Protenus, review 100% of accesses to patient data that occur in the EHR every single day, with comprehensive levels of protection that manual efforts, and simple report-based efforts, cannot begin to accomplish.

Step Two:  Leverage insight to reduce team workload

Ever heard the adage “do more with less?” If you are part of healthcare privacy and compliance teams, you are no doubt familiar with this idea. In healthcare, there is no such thing as unlimited resources, and privacy and compliance teams are often stretched to the limit. With limited resources, we have to get creative in order to accomplish everything we can to be effective stewards of patient privacy. But historically, this has required random audits and manual reviews that were not very effective in proactively detecting threats to patient privacy. In my experience, I was always left wondering what was lurking under the surface in the form of undetected threats that could pose significant harm to our patients and organization.

The use of AI-powered analytics allows us to eliminate the feeling that we are missing threats to patient privacy because we are actively monitoring and documenting on 100% of accesses to medical information. Leveraging the insight provided by these analytics allows privacy teams to spend much less time monitoring accesses to patient records. We now receive alerts that are more refined and much more accurate. Leveraging this new insight, privacy teams can focus on the other work required for their compliance programs as those valuable resources are now freed-up to get to important tasks beyond monitoring efforts. In addition, management personnel are able to assess workloads and shift priorities more succinctly, utilizing those resources more efficiently.  

You really can “do more with less” when you utilize healthcare compliance analytics as an extension of your team.

Step Three: Make the time to think strategically

Another benefit to innovative thinking and planning is just that - having the time to plan strategically. It is difficult to focus on anything other than the continual fires that you must extinguish, but what are you missing along the way? Making the time to think through long-term goals is a necessity in order to innovate and develop a proactive privacy program for your institution.

The use of innovative tools can permit privacy teams to focus on improving organizational policies and training initiatives to ensure a culture that protects patient privacy. Educating the workforce can become a priority as opposed to a line item or check box on an assessment. It is important to innovate in all aspects of your privacy program, especially when it means pushing past what is “comfortable” (yet ineffective) in order to achieve real results.

Staying connected to healthcare privacy peers in order to learn how other privacy programs are innovating to improve results is a valuable first step. Protenus has created a community of innovative healthcare privacy professionals, called PANDAS. This community permits our users to stay connected with Protenus team members as well as other users of the platform. Within the PANDAS community, the ideas flow freely and members share their unique experiences with our AI-based privacy monitoring tool. The discussions at PANDAS go beyond privacy monitoring, as our customers discuss and share thoughts, ideas, strategies and challenges related to overall privacy and healthcare compliance efforts.

To learn more about healthcare privacy innovation and why users of the Protenus platform ranked us No.1 in patient privacy monitoring, view the 2019 Best in KLAS: Software and Services report.

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