Compliance continues to be a source of blind spots for even the most forward-thinking organizations, especially in the healthcare industry. From compliance officers to the C-suite and regular employees, people continue to feel the pressure of complying with industry regulations and federal governance for safe-guarding critical data. It can be exceedingly difficult to feel like you've actually gotten to a point where you know compliance - as well as security - can be totally assured. Maybe you're not even there yet. Maybe it feels like your organization will never get to that point. And because compliance issues affect all data-users - which means most employees - in the entire company, getting so many people on board can seem like an eternal uphill battle. This is can be especially hard in the healthcare industry, where the focus tends to stay on patient care and technological development, not information protection. That doesn't have to change - just the methods of keeping data safe do.
Managed file transfer offers not only improvements upon outmoded file transfer protocols like FTP, but an end-to-end service for the smarter storage, transfer and archival of important information. Whether it focuses on a system-centric or community-centric method of file transfer management, it offers a framework, as well as tools, guidance and optimal support, for organizations that need better information protection now.
Slow HIPAA compliance continues in healthcare
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act inspires headaches in many medical professionals and administrators. It's complex, far-reaching and, in some ways, doesn't actually address the security requirements and issues that many healthcare organizations face. However, you have to start somewhere, and HIPAA is certainly a level of data security standard that providers, health insurers and employers can work from.
One reason that HIPAA compliance is so hard is because it deals directly with healthcare supply chains and the relationships between partners in a broader system. This is most apparent in the year-old HIPAA Omnibus, which brought many businesses associated with healthcare provision under the HIPAA umbrella, making them potentially liable and penalized for HIPAA violations. For healthcare organizations that have directly dealt with HIPAA, challenges still remain, but for firms only recently subjected to penalties and fines, compliance can seem quite difficult. And the fact is, many companies are taking an approach that doesn't effectively fulfill compliance measures in a cost-efficient or resolutely effective way. It's the check-box approach, said data security expert Andrew Hicks in a recent interview with HealthInfoSecurity, and it doesn't often work.
"It's very big, it's vague, it's risk-based. Organizations that are new to this or don't have dedicated [compliance] resources just throw up their hands into the air; they don't know where to start," Hicks said. "There are a lot of things that they miss by not adopting a security framework or going at it with a security approach."
Besides sowing confusion and giving rise to a siloed (read: disconnected) approach to compliance, which almost guarantees that requirements cannot be cost-effectively satisfied, the effort can end up pinning responsibility on people within the company. Compliance Week contributor Matt Kelly recently wrote that the lack of a cohesive, coherent framework is keeping many organizations from every seeing the big picture.
"It also gets to deeper, philosophical questions about whether strategic risk is within the purview of compliance and audit executives at all," Kelly observed. "Isn't setting strategic direction the job of the board and CEO? Aren't they supposed to chart the course, and we mere mortals follow that course or seek employment elsewhere?"
If that kind of attitude sounds familiar, it may be time to seek outside help for compliance improvement.
The move to managed file transfer
It's certainly true that organizations may be reticent about bringing on a partner in the effort to improve information security. After all, entrusting yet another entity with upholding the integrity of data seems to go against the conventional wisdom that the fewer people involved, the less chance of something going awry. However, it's clear that HIPAA compliance is driving many healthcare firms crazy, and managed file transfer solutions not only provide a supportive salve, but can greatly improve the operating capacity of the organization overall.
With managed file transfer solutions such as IBM Sterling File Gateway and IBM Sterling Control Center, organizations can consolidate, streamline and finally ensure end-to-end oversight of their files. These tools provide capabilities such as real-time visibility and monitoring for files as they move across healthcare supply chains and data-using applications. It offers real-time management and boosts in key areas such as service-level agreement management, as well as auditing and reporting tools that can be customized to fit certain requirements.
A trusted managed services provider like Lightwell adds even more capacity for effective management and outsourcing of costly and resource-heavy administrative tasks. The provider can help implement the IBM Sterling solutions, ensure that it is configured to the needs of the organization and provide a resource for management, troubleshooting and time-honored expertise in one of the most important facets of modern-day healthcare management.
If you liked this article, check out others from Lightwell:
- Managed file transfer needed to stop ongoing FTP problems
- Managed file transfer: Getting compliant, becoming secure
- Managing global challenges to data integrity with secure file transfer