With the rise of electronic medical records, today’s healthcare organizations process and manage massive amounts of data, much of it highly sensitive. Having this data digitized offers numerous benefits—from increased ease of access and collaboration for care providers to the improved accuracy and readability of information—while simultaneously leading to many technical challenges.

With healthcare among the most highly regulated industries, data and technology needs in this sector are inherently complex. Patient health depends on care providers being able to quickly find and access information across their devices. Yet, for legal, ethical, and business reasons, that data must be closely managed and protected at all times. To ensure data is being properly used and controlled, healthcare organizations must classify the entirety of their stored data.

Doing so is a fundamental step to ensuring regulatory compliance and to safeguarding the sensitive data essential to patient healthcare.


3 Reasons Classifying Your Healthcare Data is Vital


  1. HIPAA Compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) details strict requirements that the entire US healthcare industry must follow to ensure data security and privacy. Those found in violation of HIPAA can face crippling fines.

For this reason, it is essential that organizations find and tag or label any information pertinent to HIPAA, particularly Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI). This includes data that lives in:

  • Individual workstations
  • Email systems
  • Network file shares
  • Cloud-based storage
  • Collaboration stores
  • Other locations throughout your organization

Only once you have identified and classified all of your organization’s data can you mitigate your risk for violations and fines by enforcing and automating controls that support HIPAA compliance.


  1. Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance

PCI compliance encompasses a set of standards that every company who electronically stores, processes, or transmits credit card must adhere to, and healthcare organizations are in no way exempt.

From pharmacies to gift shops and cafeterias to on-site copayments, many patients and visitors make credit card transactions at hospitals, physicians offices, and other healthcare settings. When any payment information is handled improperly (perhaps saved to a desktop and forgotten, for example), organizations can incur costly non-compliance fines. Here again, finding and labeling all of the credit card information being stored is the first step to auditing and ensuring compliance with PCI standards.


  1. Preventing Data Breaches

Managing healthcare data isn’t just about achieving compliance and avoiding fines. Data leaks and thefts are a real concern. PHI, PII, and credit card information are big targets for hackers and command high valuable on the black market (which is part of why things like HIPAA and PCI standards exist in the first place).

Any breach you experience will be immensely costly in terms of time, money, and reputation. Data classification helps you to comply with regulation and mitigate these risks by locating and remediating data before a break. It also prepares you to successfully implement automated tools that enforce rules and best practices across all organizational data.


Getting Started with Data Classification

Classifying your data will allow you to identify and assess areas and activities of concern in both compliance and security. Once you establish data classifications, you can address these concerns by developing general and tailored controls for data in specific categories. Classifications also make it easier to automate data rules and policies, so that you aren’t relying solely on your busy employees to secure the integrity, availability, compliance, and confidentiality of your data. Finally, classifying your data can enable you to compile and share reports on how different types of data are stored and managed.

Sherpa Software offers solutions that make finding and classifying data fast, simple, and automated, so that you can stay focused on everything else you already have on your plate. When you’re ready to start creating and automating rules and controls for your data, we can help there too. Explore our data governance solutions today or contact us to request a demo for your organization.