Understanding how data security affects home care

Technology is used in our everyday lives, from managing bank accounts to booking tickets for holidays, so the push to go digital within the care industry comes as no surprise. With benefits such as improving the quality of care, reducing costs and increasing communication between care providers and clients, technology within home care brings a wealth of positive uses. 

But as with any system, moving to new technology brings its own risks. With an estimated 65,000 attempted cyber-attacks every day across the UK, data security has become a focus point within care technology. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently calculated that Health and Social Care is the 5th biggest sector attacked by cyber-criminals in the UK.

To explore how data security can affect home care, we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about data security within the care sector. 

Why is data security important within home care?

As with all personal data, whether it is a bank account number, address or medical history, all data which can be used to identify someone must be controlled and accessed securely in accordance with GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation). 

By the nature of what they do, home care agencies will store and process lots of personal data, including sensitive data pertaining to a person’s health. All of this is covered by the GDPR.

Aside from regulation, a data breach where personal information was viewed by an authorised user could lead to a number of serious issues for the care of the client, such as the client no longer being willing to share vital information; compromised medication delivery; or, the data becoming public knowledge which could jeopardise the life of the client.

It is also vital to a home care business’ reputation that data is handled securely, in a way that maintains a client’s trust and confidence in their carers.

What are the main risks to data security within home care?

Some of the most common data security risks within home care include:

  • Not locking a computer whilst away from the desk
  • Loss/theft of a physical device storing data (such as a laptop left in a car)
  • Sharing passwords or writing them down
  • Printing out information and not keeping it secure
  • Accidentally sending information to the wrong person
  • Cybercrime and hacking

In addition to establishing data security procedures and systems, many of these risks actually relate to human error and behaviour and can be guarded against with some good practice and training. 

How can a client’s data be protected?

Data can be protected in a number of ways depending on the level of security required. Passwords and two-factor authentications are applied by software companies to secure access to an account, whilst different forms of encryption are applied to data whilst in transit. Anti-virus software can also be installed on computers, as well as mobile devices to provide an additional level of data security. 

Research shows that 56% of employees frequently store sensitive data on mobile devices like smartphones. In the event the mobile device is lost, the information could be accessed by the wrong people. To combat this, software companies can prevent users from downloading documents or taking screenshots, and secure their apps through automatic log out, fingerprint recognition or passcodes. 

For example, Unique IQ’s IQ:timecard MOBILE app automatically logs out if the user closes or accesses a different app, and requires a specific employee code to log in, preventing unauthorised access in the event the device is lost. 

Does GDPR apply to home care?

Yes, GDPR does apply to the home care sector and extends to both online and offline data.

Data such as the client’s name, address and personal health information should be treated confidentially, and systems for storing, accessing and transferring this information should be compliant with GDPR.

GDPR applies to both electronic and paper versions of care plans, and other documents that contain personal details about people receiving home care (as well as staff). For in-depth details about GDPR visit the dedicated ‘Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)’ released by the Information Commissioner’s Office. But prepare to have the kettle on – it’s 201 pages long!

What is cloud storage and what are the benefits of using cloud computing in the care industry?

Cloud storage is a form of computer data storage that is physically held on multiple servers that are owned by a hosting company. Companies access their individually dedicated servers via the internet, allowing them to access the stored data anywhere in the world. 

Thanks to the flexible access via the internet, using cloud computing to maintain, manage and share data makes it quick and secure for all users.

Mobile apps, such as IQ:timecard MOBILE, which makes use of cloud storage, allow even the remotest care worker to access important data regarding the care of their client.

Data security in cloud computing is viewed as the strongest against cyber-attacks and threats, thanks to the security measures in place such as data centre managers and encryption during transfer.

What measures can I implement to improve data security?

Here are some tips for improving data security within your home care business: 

Inform your staff. Keep training and guidance about data security up to date with members of staff. Often they are the first to be alerted in the event of a data breach and knowing how to act could prevent the risk from growing. They also pose one of the biggest data risks, so instilling good data habits among your team will help to protect your business.

Risk assess. Carry out regular risk assessments and testing to ensure any potential security gaps are found and dealt with before they cause an issue.

Be prepared. Not just a Scout saying, but vital to a business also. Being prepared with policies and a business continuity plan may not completely stop a security breach, but will help to minimise the risk and ensure you and your staff know what to do and how to react.

Apply secure access. Use standard security measures such as two-factor authentication and strong passwords to secure electronic data. And of course, keep cupboards and filing cabinets containing personal data locked!

Check devices. Keeping technology up to date with anti-virus software and applying any new updates to mobile devices can help to secure data used within online systems.

Want to know more about the benefits of workforce management software in homecare? Head over to our workforce management hub.