Compliance vs. Security – You may be secure, but are you compliant?

A misconception exists between compliance and security, and it causes problems for many clinics. Unfortunately, the definitions of these two essential components become easily confused, and while both are essential for protecting sensitive data, failing to understand the differences between the two can be a costly mistake that puts your clinic at risk. In this article, we define the two and uncover some of the most common mistakes organizations make when it comes to understanding compliance vs. security.

Compliance and Security Are Not Interchangeable

When you think about compliance and security, do you consider them to be one and the same? This is a major misconception that is shared by many. The truth is secure does not mean compliant. Security is a component of compliance. Creating security through recommended IT measures isn’t enough to comply with regulations and keep your patient’s sensitive data safe.

Compliance in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is highly regulated. There are strict standards and laws that govern practice. Compliance is confirmation — a reporting function — of how your clinic is meeting and maintaining privacy standards, as defined by governing acts like the Health Information Act (HIA) in Alberta, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documentation Act in Canada (PIPEDA) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the USA. Complying with privacy regulations is essential for every clinic. More than a bureaucratic exercise, compliance establishes best practices that protect your clinic from external threats that can be detrimental to operations. To be compliant, your practice must follow government regulations, which mandate that you are able to prove your clinic is able to demonstrate the following:

  • Consent – Have patients acknowledged they are ok with you are sharing their information?
  • Audit (Chain of custody) – Can you prove who accessed patient information and when?
  • Backup – Do you have a strong backup of all your patient information that can be used in the event of loss of primary data?
  • Archive – How is unused information used or destroyed?
  • Security – Are you taking reasonable measures that comply with regulations?
  • And more (E.G., in the case of HIPAA, there are over 140 aspects to compliance)

As you can see, security does not equal compliance, but you can’t be compliant without security.

How Security Fits into the Larger Compliance Picture

Security is about assessing threats and risks to your organization and taking reasonable measures to protect the patient data in your possession. An effective security program must fulfill compliance requirements, but we caution against the ‘checkbox mentality,’ as it may result in inadequate protection. As threats evolve, it’s crucial that your cybersecurity measures keep pace. Performing ongoing risk assessments and diligent security practices throughout the year will help keep your organization safe from every angle.

Ensure Compliance and Security

Achieving compliance beyond security within your clinic will help manage risks, defend against threats such as ransomware and privacy breaches, safeguard sensitive data, and maintain patient safety and trust. To help keep your business on track, consider working with Brightsquid’s professional privacy team. Our privacy compliance experts will be happy to examine existing practices and determine the policies and procedures that will help you meet compliance standards while securing your clinic against external threats.