ONC recommends healthcare providers hire security specialists

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Officials at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) have recommended that hospitals and care providers employ information security specialists to ensure the integrity of patient data, reports Information Week.

The recommendations were part of the ONC’s recently published “Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information.” As well as suggesting that healthcare organizations employ data security specialists, the publication recommended frequent risk assessments to identify potential weaknesses in healthcare IT networks such as medical informatics systems.

In addition to several broader recommendations relating to patient data security, the publication outlined ways in which healthcare providers can secure sensitive information while working toward achieving meaningful use of medical informatics systems.

Data security has become an increasingly important consideration for many healthcare providers. As the ONC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continue to encourage the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), greater emphasis has been placed on safeguarding sensitive patient information.

“While the focus is on meeting meaningful use requirements, which is the path to receiving EHR incentive reimbursements, it is important that everyone keep their eye on the real objective at hand, which is to safeguard protected health information from data breaches,” Daniel Berger, president and chief executive office of healthcare IT risk assessment firm Redspin, told the news source.

According to eWeek, many healthcare providers need to take additional action to secure patient information from loss or theft. Several high profile data breaches in Atlanta, South Carolina and Utah highlight the need for information security specialists in clinical environments.

Some experts have questioned whether healthcare IT personnel should be permitted to use their own mobile devices and tablets when accessing corporate networks. According to a survey by Aruba Networks, 85 percent of clinical facilities allow physicians to access hospital networks from personal devices.