The PPM system – keeping sensitive data safe 24 Aug 2015
If you work in medicine and are responsible for patient records you may be haunted by media stories of the data that got away.
In the last few years we have heard stories of patient data placed on a memory stick being lost together with the attached label giving away the password for the encrypted records. We have been told of computers going missing with patient records never recovered, and informed that laptops and CDs with sensitive information have been left on public transport.
In 2009, the Information Commissioner took action against 14 organisations within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, who were all identified as having woeful security measures in place to protect patients’ details.
Being more careful is not enough
Tightening up the security on hardware is certainly a good idea but that won’t protect a busy private medical practice from the less tangible threat of hacking, spyware and computer viruses.
All computers used in medical practice should be fitted with virus protection software and malware detection systems but these can fail to recognise the newest threats if they are not kept properly up-to-date.
How good practice management software can help
PPM Software have produced a complete private practice management package called ‘PPM’ – Private Practice Manager to streamline the back-end functions of a medical practice, allowing all data in the system to be retrieved easily.
Many IT disasters that result in data being lost electronically can be avoided by using ‘PPM’ because it reduces the risk of human error.
PPM Software – our recommendations for private practice IT security
PPM Software, the company that has been implementing the ‘PPM’ – Private Practice Manager software and supporting its use across the UK since 1998, recommends the following strategy for peace of mind:
- Make sure your computer, network and PPM system are password protected. Choose passwords using a random password generator – Google that phrase and you will find one easily. You can set the required password length and then all passwords need to be stored carefully by the people who need them but will be impossible for intruders and hackers to guess.
- Change your password regularly – every month is recommended.
- Always have good, reputable antivirus software with anti-malware properly installed on your system and keep it up to date. You can set automatic updates at weekly or daily intervals.
- Make sure the network, however small, has a firewall installed to prevent anyone hacking into your system. This can come as part of a package with the antivirus software.
- Install anti-spam software or activate anti-spam options in your email client. Delete any suspicious emails, particularly those that have attachments.
- Update your web browser and operating system regularly. Most new computers have auto-download and auto-install options for updates. Having the latest versions reduces potential weaknesses that could be exploited by viruses or hackers.
- Back up, back up, back up. If you only keep data within your system and something does happen, attempts at data retrieval are expensive and may not work. Many people still use CDs, DVDs or external drives but there are also plenty of free or relatively cheap online solutions that give you a back up ‘in the cloud’. Your data is copied to online, secure storage and can be accessed from another computer if necessary.