Secure file sharing is an absolute must for all dental practitioners. As HIPAA covered entities, dentists must be able to demonstrate they are safeguarding the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of their patients at all times, as per the HIPAA Security Rule.
In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule is designed to control and limit who has access to ePHI.
It states that HIPAA covered entities must implement policies and procedures to ensure the privacy of ePHI.
Together, these rules make it essential dental practitioners apply secure file sharing practices across their business.
What Safeguards Do I Need?
The Security Rule stipulates that HIPAA covered entities deploy three types of safeguards to protect ePHI:
- Administrative Safeguards: policies and procedures to ensure the management and maintenance of ePHI protection.
- Physical Safeguards: physical security measures (security systems, etc.) that restrict access to the physical premises and hardware where ePHI is stored.
- Technical Safeguards: digital/technological security measures that protect ePHI, such as data encryption, access controls and user authentication.
What Do These Safeguards Look Like in Practice?
Here’s what you need to do to enable HIPAA compliant file sharing at your office.
Encryption is paramount to HIPAA compliant secure file sharing.
The HIPAA Security Rule defines encryption as “the use of an algorithmic process to transform data into a form in which there is low probability of assigning meaning without use of a confidential process or key.” In other words, encrypting your ePHI files renders them unreadable without a decryption key and therefore unusable to unauthorized individuals.
For secure file sharing, files must be encrypted both at rest and in motion, as per guidance from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights, the body responsible for enforcing HIPAA standards.
User authentication is required to decrypt the files and thereby view, download, edit or delete information contained within them. Put simply, encrypted file sharing means that ePHI data is protected from unauthorized individuals from the moment it is sent to the moment it is received and stored.
User Authentication and Access Controls
To ensure only authorized parties are granted access to ePHI should they need it, staff members must be given a unique user ID and strong password management practices must be enforced.
In addition, multi-factor authentication should be enabled to confirm the identity of every single user who attempts to log into your systems and records. Multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security should a staff member’s login credentials become compromised.
Ongoing Staff Training
Employees need to be trained on how to handle ePHI in a HIPAA-compliant way. The legislation is lengthy and complex and best practices for compliance change frequently.
HIPAA training should be provided to ensure employees understand everything from the HIPAA rules to the importance of unique passwords, how to spot phishing scams, and the penalties of non-compliance.
Make Sure You Use A HIPAA Compliant File Sharing Service
Not all file-sharing services are HIPAA compliant. As such you must do your homework before selecting a solution provider.
Popular services like Amazon Web Services, Google Drive, and Dropbox are not HIPAA compliant by default.
This means that if you’re prepared and able to configure the system yourself, regularly monitor who has access and which devices are used to connect to the system, they can be used in a HIPAA compliant way. However, this is far from ideal.
Other services, such as WeTransfer, are not HIPAA-compliant at all, so must be avoided. Apple’s iCloud will not sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with HIPAA covered entities – and so, again, this service is out of bounds for dental practitioners.
The best way to ensure you are not in breach of HIPAA rules and that your files are always safe and protected is to use a specialist HIPAA-compliant secure file sharing solution.
HIPAA Compliant Secure File Sharing from Central Data Storage
We have BAAs in place and are approved by third-party auditors as 100% compliant with HIPAA and HITECH, as well as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and State Laws.
Our Encrypted File Sharing service offers beyond military-grade 448-bit encryption, secure private messaging, secure attachments, and automatic chat and file expiration or archiving.
Our sole purpose is to ensure your data is always safe, protected, fully recoverable, and that you remain in full compliance with HIPAA and other regulatory requirements.