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Windows 10 Enterprise: How It Facilitates Greater HIPAA Compliance

Since the implementation of HIPAA in 1996, several revisions were made to it including the ARRA/HITECH Act in 2009 and the Omnibus Rule in 2013. But one thing that remains consistent is the overall lack of understanding of this Act. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is so complex that most organizations hire specialists to handle all their compliance

Since the implementation of HIPAA in 1996, several revisions were made to it including the ARRA/HITECH Act in 2009 and the Omnibus Rule in 2013. But one thing that remains consistent is the overall lack of understanding of this Act.

Windows 10 HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is so complex that most organizations hire specialists to handle all their compliance needs. This is somewhat odd because the original intent of HIPAA was to improve the healthcare industry by simplifying administrative procedures, reducing costs and upgrading the level of patient privacy and security throughout the healthcare industry. HIPAA seems to have accomplished just the opposite on all fronts.

How Windows 10 HIPAA Traceability Section Enterprise Can Help

In an effort to address this, Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise has included support and guidance that streamlines some HIPAA compliance issues. The operating system provides greater security and comprehensive architectural advancements designed to thwart hacking and malware threats.

As the world moves into an age where security problems are a growing concern, Microsoft has proven that it’s a global leader in operating system designs for computers, smartphones, iPads and other devices. With Windows 10 Enterprise comes a new need to understand how the operating system can address and deal with HIPAA’s complicated issues.

Many users believe that Windows 10 will expose an organization to HIPAA violations because it utilizes the Cloud to send and receive information. The Cloud is now part of the default operation for many pieces of software. Though there are risks, experts believe that users will accept them because of the convenience of cloud storage. As the use of the Cloud grows, there’s an expectation that greater security will be a primary goal for developers.

Microsoft’s programmers have ensured everyone that Windows 10 Enterprise can be easily configured to support the privacy and security requirements of HIPAA. This can prevent organizations from incurring the hefty financial penalties associated with failure to implement and use HIPAA correctly.

Within most organizations, CIO and IT professionals are often deputized and given the responsibility to ensure compliance with HIPAA standards. For them to do their jobs properly, there’s a great need to fully comprehend the issues of privacy and security surrounding the Protected Health Information (PHI) of patients within their network.

Privacy Issues

The HIPAA Privacy Rules were developed to protect patient data. Healthcare professionals should become familiar with the two sides of HIPAA regulations. The first deals with the privacy of patients. HIPAA maintains strict rules for protecting the health information of an individual. PHI refers to demographic information, medical history, test and laboratory results, insurance information and other data that a healthcare professional needs to identify an individual and determine appropriate care. It also includes key identifiers such as phone numbers, patient ID numbers, social security numbers, insurance ID numbers, electronic mail addresses and even some vehicle ID numbers. In fact, there are 18 different types of information that might reveal the identity of a patient. These must all be protected from intruders.

Security Issues

With so many hacking and cyber-theft events occurring each year, it has become even more challenging to protect the personal health information of every individual.

HIPAA Security rules cover five categories:

  1. Administrative safeguards
  2. Physical safeguards
  3. Technical safeguards
  4. Organizational requirements
  5. Documentation requirements (procedures and policies)

The only exception to these rules is in cases where an implementation specification is deemed “not reasonable and appropriate.” In this case, it’s necessary to produce evidence that a ‘good faith’ effort was made to implement an alternative security measure to protect the patient’s information. This results in two categories of implementation specifications:

  • Required-These must be applied by each covered entity.
  • Addressable-Used in cases where a covered entity either makes a good faith effort to implement security or has documentation that justifies the decision not to do so.

In this day and age, the process is complicated by the fact that personal data can be stored in a number of different devices. You may have electronic protected health information (ePHI) stored in your email server, voice mail, fax machine, computer, cell phones, tablets, medical devices and other places. Of course, many of these areas are not within the organization’s scope or purview and therefore are excluded. In any area that is considered within the purview of the organization, there are serious financial penalties for breaches. The fines range from $100 to $1.5 million.

Upgrading to Windows 10

With the new and more comprehensive updates to Windows 10 Enterprise, numerous companies and government organizations are upgrading their operating system. To date, businesses in every industry have made these upgrades hoping to improve their security. This list includes the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. Most CIOs and IT professionals of health organizations consider Windows 10 a more dependable operating system and have either already installed it, or will in the near future. However, they face multiple challenges:

  1. Cyber-attacks, data leaks, and evolving security threats
  2. Greater user mobility and collaboration
  3. Strict HIPAA compliance regulations and greater scrutiny
  4. Apps that collaborate with other programs
  5. Legal implications including lawsuits
  6. Eroding patient trust
  7. Increasing costs to maintain health records
  8. Out-of-date software programs
  9. Many others

What is an Acceptable Risk?

Today, one the major components of HIPAA compliance is to demonstrate an acceptable level of appropriate IT-related security measures. These must include known and unknown risks. For instance, while it’s obvious that a company might experience a cyber attack, the CIO should also take into consideration other methods of data leaks. Some of these include the carelessness of employees, fraud committed against the organization and the break down of equipment and computers.

Millions of patient records are stored in thousands of computers across the U.S. With so much data at risk, HIPAA’s proactive approach seeks to ensure our privacy. However, the threat of exposure escalates with each new cyber attack. Citizens are becoming accustomed to having information at their fingertips, but any time one medical practice shares patient information with another, a new risk is born.

Extending Protection to all Business Associates

Another huge area of concern are the companies that a medical practice might do business with. These include laboratories, accountants, hospitals, sub-contractors and even the company that delivers water. Any exchange of a patient’s health information must be dealt with appropriately. HIPAA requires all healthcare providers, hospitals, and organizations to take these five steps to ensure the confidentiality of healthcare records:

1. Review system activity records on a regular basis, including reports and audit logs.

2. Ensure the confidentiality of all electronic health information, whether sending, receiving or maintaining these records.

3. Monitor login attempts and report discrepancies.

4. Identify and respond to data breaches, and notify the appropriate parties.

5. Protect all exchanges of healthcare information between entities.

Who is Responsible for HIPAA Compliance?

Under HIPAA’s and ARRA’s Omnibus rule, any organization that deals with patient information must comply with these regulations. This includes anyone who retains, accesses, stores, modifies or destroys protected healthcare information. In order to fully comply, it’s necessary to create a solid audit trail of any disclosures, whether past, present or future. An organization must be diligent to protect any information that might identify the patient.

Although the HIPAA Privacy rule deals more with any type of protected health information, the HIPAA Security Rule focuses more on the electronic side of things. The Microsoft Privacy Statement uses flexible language when talking about how personal data is collected, shared and used. Experts say that the default configuration of Windows 10 may violate some HIPAA requirements. However, when IT managers understand what’s required by law, they can install Windows 10 Enterprise so it doesn’t compromise sensitive information.

Updates to Windows 10 Enterprise

The Fall Creators Update to Windows 10 Enterprise offers a higher level of protection against today’s most prevalent security issues. It was developed to help healthcare organizations better manage the ongoing threats that compromise our privacy. It was also aimed at helping healthcare organizations perform their due diligence under HIPAA regulations. With the continuing threats of cyber attacks, most healthcare organizations need an operating system with built-in compliance features, and Windows 10 delivers this.

The Windows Restricted Traffic Limited Functionality Baseline allows you to configure your settings for all the devices in your organization. Though some of these may slow down the functionality of operations, these can easily be bypassed. Your CIO or IT director can choose the right combination of settings for your operating environment for the fastest operations and best security. Although Windows 10 Enterprise does have some drawbacks, it is now considered a solid foundation that any healthcare organization can use to protect sensitive data and fulfill the requirements of HIPAA.

There is a wide range of administrative and technical safeguards built into Windows 10 Enterprise. Its refined architecture was designed to make the job of compliance a bit easier. The operating software takes a fresh approach to this task by creating hardware-based virtualization that segregates high-value functions. This approach has proven to reduce attack surfaces by protecting things like credential management from hackers.

In addition, controls were added that provide better tools to detect and reduce data breaches. As the world moves forward, many software developers will follow Microsoft’s lead and begin to build programs that give us a higher level of protection from hacking and cyber invasion. Today’s experts believe that the future of software development will be to identify and solve risks in advance so that all of our data—not just healthcare—is afforded the strongest level of protection.

Newest Features of Windows 10 Enterprise

Although some of these are not new at all, most of them were fine-tuned to prevent hacking. These connected features include:

  1. 3rd Party Advertisers-As in the past, 3rd party advertisers want to gather as much information about users as possible in order to create targeted ad campaigns. You can turn this feature off, but you’ll still receive ads. They simply will not be customized specifically for the user.
  2. Cortana-a feature that allows you to interact with the computer using speech.
  3. BitLocker- This full disk encryption feature is designed to protect data using encryption algorithms for entire volumes. For PC’s connected to an Active Directory domain, Windows 10 automatically backs up the recovery key on a personal OneDrive account. For those not connected, the BitLocker is stored within the directory.
  4. Settings Sync- This feature allows you to sync all your settings across multiple devices. This includes passwords, so it should be used with caution in the healthcare industry.

Microsoft’s “zero-exhaust” initiative works to ensure that no data is inadvertently communicated across the Internet. By correctly configuring Windows 10, an organization can greatly reduce its risk of violating HIPAA regulations.

Microsoft’s Restricted Traffic Limited Functionality is a baseline that was developed to restrict connection between Microsoft and Windows 10. These baselines can be used to configure the operating system to a known secure state.

Windows 10 and The Cloud

The HIPAA Traceability Section seeks to ensure that cloud communications are maximized while preventing data leaks. Any computing environment that stores ePHI must be managed so that it doesn’t inadvertently expose sensitive information to cloud-based programs. When configuring Windows 10 Enterprise, it’s important to consider the recommended privacy and security strategies. This can help organizations avoid hefty fines. The software can be set up where accidental data leakage is greatly curtailed.

All IT decision makers within the healthcare industry can review the changes and upgrades to Windows 10 Enterprise and decide for themselves which features will best accomplish their goals. The software is only available through a volume licensing agreement. Once this is in effect, you can go to the: Volume Licensing Service Center to download 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Enterprise. If you don’t have a volume license, you should contact a Microsoft reseller.