How to Implement VPN for Health Care IT

Data security is paramount for any health facility, including long-term care, to guarantee the privacy and protection of patient information. Ensuring robust data security measures are in place is essential for maintaining trust and upholding the confidentiality of sensitive health records.

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How to Implement VPN for Health Care IT
4 Min Read February 27th, 2024 Updated:June 5th, 2024

VPNs have become synonymous with security and privacy, often utilized through Chrome VPN extensions on desktops or mobile apps for swift access. They have also become crucial for health care organizations to secure remote access and protect sensitive patient information. 

However, effectively implementing and managing VPNs can pose challenges. To aid healthcare IT teams, we offer a guide on VPN best practices specifically designed to meet the industry's remote access, compliance, and security requirements.

Select a HIPAA-Compliant VPN Solution

The first step is selecting a VPN solution designed for health care that meets HIPAA's privacy and security rules. The VPN should support strong encryption, like AES 256-bit, to encrypt data in transit. It should also have extensive access controls to restrict access to only authorized users based on roles. The solution should also have detailed logging and auditing to track user activities.

Look for a vendor who will sign a HIPAA business associate agreement (BAA) to legally bind them to handle protected health information (PHI) properly. The VPN solution should undergo independent audits and be certified for security frameworks like HITRUST or ISO 27001. Top solutions like Perimeter 81, NordVPN, SurfShark, ExpressVPN, and Cisco AnyConnect cater specifically to the healthcare sector.

Carefully Plan the VPN Implementation

Once you have selected the VPN solution, plan the rollout properly before full deployment. First, clearly define the use cases, users, and data that will leverage the VPN. Prioritize enabling remote access for telehealth services, home health workers, and remote monitoring infrastructure.

Determine the applications, networks, and resources that remote users should access. Planning access tiers for different teams allows for configuring the right permissions. For instance, doctors may need access to EHR software and medical imaging, while remote nurses only require access to scheduling applications.

Configure the VPN for Optimal Security

Proper configuration is vital for VPN security in healthcare. Enable the strongest encryption and authentication schemes offered by the solution. Require multi-factor authentication (MFA) using mechanisms like one-time passwords or biometrics.

Implement features like VPN split tunneling to ensure traffic is routed through the VPN or dropped if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly. Set up VPN clients to connect automatically when users log in to corporate-owned devices. Disable unnecessary services and open ports on VPN servers and restrict VPN gateway access through internal firewalls.

Create Comprehensive VPN Usage Policies

Draft strong policies for acceptable VPN usage tailored for your health care environment. The policies should cover aspects like mandatory MFA, approved devices and operating systems, restricting access to personal devices, and procedures for reporting issues or violations.

Educate all remote users on the policies to set clear expectations. For instance, clarify that using public Wi-Fi or accessing illegal content can lead to VPN access revocation.

Monitor the VPN Closely

Actively monitor the VPN solution using built-in reporting or specialized tools. Watch for suspicious geographic access locations, unknown devices, abnormal connection durations, and excessive failed login attempts.

Investigate red flags immediately and enforce restrictions or revoke access if necessary. Auditing logs regularly also helps identify improper data access by employees. Consider setting alerts for specific high-risk events.

Maintain the VPN Proactively

Keep the VPN platform updated continuously by promptly applying all security patches released by the vendor. Schedule periodic penetration testing to identify any potential vulnerabilities. Review configurations and access rules quarterly and optimize them based on auditing logs.

Frequently backup VPN appliances and infrastructure for quick disaster recovery. Test backups periodically to ensure seamless restoration if needed.

Data Security with VPNs

VPNs significantly bolster the security of health care data, facilitating safe and universal access to patient records. By carefully selecting the appropriate solution and rigorously applying robust policies, health care IT teams can optimize the efficacy of VPNs. Proactive monitoring and regular maintenance are essential to ensure the continued health and security of VPN networks.

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About the Author

Vineet Maheshwari is a passionate blogger and relationship oriented digital marketing consultant

LTC News Contributor Vineet Maheshwari

Vineet Maheshwari

Contributor since March 5th, 2024

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