Let me set a scene where a Virtual Private Network (VPN) would be “just what the doctor ordered.”
You’re out of town at a conference of healthcare professionals in your specialty. Before you left home, a colleague asked you to consult on a paricular case. She said she would email you the patient’s test results as soon as she got them, along with relevant details from his medical history.
“Take a look as soon as you can,” she said, “Then tell me what you think.”
You brought your laptop with you. The hotel where you’re staying has Wi-Fi. So does the coffee shop around the corner, and the McDonalds down the street. But when it comes to transmitting Protected Health Information (PHI), Wi-Fi isn’t secure enough. You know this. You’ve heard it at more than one HIPAA compliance seminar.
That’s why prior to your arrival at the conference, you set up a Virtual Private Network with your colleague. A VPN allows you to create a secure connection even on a public unsecured network. The connection between your device and the server is encrypted, so the information you send or receive is protected.
To share PHI in this way, you and your colleague arranged to access the network by using the same “key.” And you both took the steps you needed to take to be able to connect with the VPN tunnel. This bit of pre-planning now enables you to view those test results remotely — and with the kind of security HIPAA compliance demands.
The technical details of setting up a Virtual Private Network are beyond the scope of a Quick Tip like this. But if you ever need to exchange PHI when you’re away from the secure network at your office, ask your IT person about VPN.
Photo courtesy of andrewkimmel