How to ensure data security and privacy in care homes
Many care homes still rely on paper-based systems like MAR charts, but digital transformation presents new opportunities for ensuring privacy and security
For many care home owners, digital transformation has proven a difficult journey. Aside from more obvious issues like budgetary constraints, the pressure to adopt new technology itself presents challenges and opportunities alike.
By now, most decision-makers understand the growing importance of using data to promote a better quality of life and ensure better safety for their residents. Yet many care homes still rely on paper-based systems, such as MAR charts for tracking medications.
These records would be stored in folders in locked rooms. But, as is the case with any paper-based record, there is always a significant risk of loss or theft putting the safety and privacy of residents at risk.
Recent times have seen a major shift towards electronic record-keeping in care homes, as in the healthcare and medicine sector in general. As such, security is no longer only a matter of locking the room, but to ensure that the information is kept safe online with the right blend of physical, technical, and administrative measures.
Safeguarding access to MAR charts and other records
One of the most important benefits of using digital records is that they are readily accessible to staff members no matter where they are or whether they are using a smartphone or desktop. On the flipside, however, this may also mean they are more readily accessible to unauthorised users and cybercriminals.
Accessibility is vital for delivering better experiences for the people in Care Homes, as well as for allowing nurses and staff to keep track of medications and ensure compliance with privacy and security policies. To make that happen without adding risk to your organisation and your service users, you need several layers of security. By contrast, the only way to secure paper-based records is to keep them in locked rooms.
One of the most important layers of security is encryption. Modern encryption algorithms, such as AES-256, are practically unbreakable. Applying encryption to data in transit and in storage makes it useless to any would-be attacker, even if they do manage to gain access to it. This is especially important for countering common threats like wireless network eavesdropping or man-in-the-middle attacks.
Another essential security layer is multifactor authentication (MFA). Relying on passwords alone will leave your online-accessible systems highly vulnerable to social engineering scams designed to dupe unsuspecting users into giving away their login details. However, with MFA, users will need to verify their identities by using a secondary method, such as a one-time code sent via SMS or email.
Fortunately, thanks to universal solutions like Google Authenticator, it is neither difficult nor prohibitively expensive to protect these systems with MFA. At Atlas we have recently implemented this feature as an upgrade to our existing multifactor authentication layer.
Access controls should also be role-based. According to the principle of least privilege, no one should ever have access to sensitive data unless they explicitly need it to do their jobs.
Physical safeguards are also important, even though they are often overlooked in the age of cloud computing where personal data is less likely to be stored on-site. However, in the case of cloud-based apps, this responsibility falls to the service provider. Reputable service providers will only ever use servers in secure data centres. For example, those owned and operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS) are among the most physically secure facilities in the world.
Technical and administrative safeguards, such as encryption, backup and disaster recovery, and MFA, are all part of the package.
Our product, Atlas eMAR, provides Care Homes with all these security tools to help keep personal data safe and accessible.
Putting digital security and privacy first
Given the recent spate of ransomware and other attacks targeting care homes and healthcare, it may be tempting to avoid digital transformation altogether. However, by partnering with the right service provider, there will be more opportunities to reduce risk, enhance staff productivity, and improve the safety and wellbeing of the people cared for in Care Homes.
If you have any questions about information security in your Care Home, and how Atlas eMAR can help, please get in touch using the Register your Interest option - we would love to hear from you!
Jeff Shelley, Chief Information Officer
ATLAS is an electronic MAR system that helps reduce medication errors, streamline auditing, and enhance operational efficiency without compromising on security. Learn more about our platform here.