The United States Government is making more moves to protect sensitive personal health information from being exposed to the general public (or the wrong hands.)
In early May, the White House sent a number of legislative proposals to Congress to strengthen cyber security, critical infrastructure and offer additional protection for consumers civil liberties and privacy.
Health care providers are federally mandated to comply with Privacy and Accountability standards set in HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act.) Failure to follow HIPAA compliance mandates that result in data breaches, loss or disclosure of patient information or breached Email communications could result in heavy fines for health care providers. In addition to securing critical Email communications, Health care providers must also protect patient data from being tampered with by employees by storing it in a place where it can’t be physically accessed and altered.
California Representative (R) Mary Bono Mack, an instrumental politician in privacy and security legislation, proposed the SAFE Data Act to establish uniform national standards for data security and data breach notifications across all industries. If passed, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be granted the ability to govern cybersecurity plans for all Critical Infrastructure (CI), including health care. Additionally, Critical Infrastructure owners would be required to create cybersecurity plans that would be subject to oversight by DHS and third party auditors, as well as mandate consistent data breach notification duties and preempt most current state data breach notice laws.
Mary Bono Mack said, “The SAFE Data Act builds on legislation passed by the House in 2009 but never acted upon in the Senate. Most importantly, it reflects the changing landscape of data breaches and data security since that time.
It’s an upgraded, 2.0 version of data security legislation, encompassing many of the lessons learned in the aftermath of massive data breaches this year at Sony and Epsilon, which put more than 100 million consumer accounts at risk — and those are just the ones we know about.
As chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, protection from identity theft and online fraud is one of my top priorities.”
With security breaches on the rise, increased reform and regulations regarding online security are inevitable. Health care providers should take extra care to make sure that their organization is HIPAA compliant and is taking measures to safeguard valuable patient information to avoid costly fines and other penalties.
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