How Your Independent Pharmacy Can Start Protecting Patient Information

Pharmacy operations go beyond dispensing medications. They even surpass offering quality clinical services or achieving high customer ratings. It’s easy to sometimes forget that your independent pharmacy holds extremely sensitive information about your patients.  In this way, protecting patient information is critical to your operations.

Knowing a patient’s health journey requires knowing them in a very personal and vulnerable light. Naturally, you’re held to strict HIPAA policies, and rightfully so. Patient-pharmacist confidentiality is a sacred bond, both in the healthcare and legal sense.

You’ll want a pharmacy software system that protects your patient’s information as effectively as it processes insurance claims. Not only will it prevent a lawsuit from being thrown your way, but it will also help you establish a strong sense of trust with your patient.

Understand the Weight of Healthcare Data Breaches

In December 2021, most healthcare breaches in the US were the result of hacking or IT-related incidents, according to Statista. Other causes included improper disposal and unauthorized access/disclosure of information.

In another study by Statista, 2021 saw more healthcare data breaches than any other year in history, with 721 different data breaches. And it doesn’t appear to slow down this year.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 125 data breaches involving healthcare organizations have been reported as of the beginning of April.

The data speaks for itself: there has never been a greater need for effective cybersecurity. Here’s how you can increase your cybersecurity while protecting patient information.

1. Know Security, No Problem

All protected health information (PHI) must be kept private, as healthcare professionals should only disclose the minimum amount of information necessary to properly fill a prescription.

Not only are healthcare professionals expected to ensure that confidential information stays safe, but they uphold the security of such information.

Cybersecurity can be overly dense and confusing for laymen, let alone those who specialize in a different field. Nevertheless, knowing the basic fundamentals of your pharmacy software system’s security system will benefit you and your small business in the long run.

With technology constantly evolving and updating (not unlike the pharmacy industry itself), it’s essential to understand the essentials of how your software should safeguard your patients’ confidential information.

2. Make Sure You Have a Firewall

For the uninitiated, a firewall is a part of a “computer system that is designed to prevent people from getting at information without authority but still allows them to receive information that is sent to them.”

Having a firewall is among the most basic elements of cybersecurity, but is easily the most important. Without it, you’re opening yourself up to a myriad of cybersecurity threats that will harm your pharmacy and your patients.

3. Install an Internet Web Filter

The Internet, even for all its rules and regulations, is still the technological wild west. Viruses and spam messages are as abundant as ever, ready to damage your computer and the information in it. A well-intended email might have a link with a single typo and, before you know it, you’ve clicked into a virus and spam-infested website that’ll do a number on your computer.

Installing a web filter with your Internet provider will deter those online threats and will even prevent you or your staff from going down Internet rabbit holes or browsing social media. So not only are you implementing quality security measures, but you’re also promoting optimal workplace efficiency — a win-win if there ever was one.

4. Have a Software System that Prepares for the Worst

Disasters or system-wide failures never happen at a convenient time. Your independent pharmacy can lose power at a moment’s notice, leaving your data openly vulnerable. Check if your pharmacy software system has a data backup system and cloud capabilities for offline storage.

Having a backup is like insurance: you hope you’ll never have to use it it’s a good idea to have it anyway.

Having a cloud backup will allow you to run and operate your pharmacy with little more than an Internet connection. Not only are you keeping your pharmacy’s information safe and secure but you’re also showing that your independent pharmacy can optimally run through rain or shine.

5. Secure Your Staff

Your pharmacy software system should require login credentials to use. If it doesn’t, that’s a very alarming sign that you should switch to new software. With that out of the way, you can make your staff login even more secure with biometric authentication capabilities, namely through fingerprint and facial recognition.

Utilizing these security measures will further make it more difficult for sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands. It can also reinforce your pharmacy’s chain of command — techs will have access to certain features that clerks aren’t privy to. Likewise, pharmacists will have a clearance level above the rest of the staff.

6. Have a Reliable Software Vendor

As we stated in a prior blog, choosing a pharmacy software system also means choosing a reliable vendor support team.

Your support team will be the ones you’ll want to contact first in the sudden event of a power outage or another uncontrollable mishap.

Remember that communication is key and it’s essential to have your software support team be as transparent and responsive as possible. Otherwise, your pharmacy could be securely vulnerable and susceptible to privacy breaches. What’s more, you’ll want to know what to tell your patients when your software isn’t working.

In essence, a responsive support team means you can assure your patients that everything is under control.

How Will You Safeguard Your Patient’s Information?

The pharmacy industry champions those who have great foresight and act on it. In a time when cybersecurity threats have been more prevalent than ever, it’s necessary to take the proper measures in safeguarding your patients’ and independent pharmacy’s information.

It also helps to brush up on specific HIPAA guidelines regarding patient privacy and what could constitute a privacy breach. Even a slip of the tongue can count as a HIPAA violation.

Lastly, communicate with your vendor about the specific security measures your pharmacy software system has equipped. Technology is a labyrinthian field, but it never hurts to learn the basics.