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Veterinary clinics have a crucial job: preserving the health and saving the lives of our beloved pets. As they strive to do the best job, clinics are constantly onboarding the latest technological tools, such as sophisticated record tracking software and other digital solutions for veterinary workers. However, as in other sectors, new technological paradigms bring unknown risks.
The most valuable asset at risk? Data. The law requires clinics to store veterinary client information and other records such as employee and administrative data.
Though generally safer in the cloud than in on-premises legacy systems, these data sets have become exposed to a different set of risks: such as digital data loss, unauthorized access, and cyber-attacks.
Self-protection aside, veterinary clinics must meet several federal and state data protection laws for veterinary practices. These laws are why veterinary clinics should deploy a robust email backup and archiving solution; such a solution also provides an added layer of protection from any external threat attack or even accidental/malicious deletion by staff.
Read on to know more essential details of data handling in veterinary practices.
Veterinary Laws and Regulations on Data Privacy
Data privacy is a crucial topic today. Current laws cover how institutions handle data electronically and define what organizations must do to protect sensitive data. Here are some of the laws that veterinary practices must adhere to:
HIPAA does not cover the protection of animals’ health information because pets, livestock, and similar animal companions are considered property and not persons. However, it requires the security of veterinary client information.
Legislators formed this US federal law to ensure that an individual’s information is appropriately protected. This protection includes the information from an animal owner: name, address, and similar private data. The law requires healthcare providers and business associates who handle health information to comply with it. Since animal owners have to submit personal information when scheduling veterinary visits, their data is under data protection.
Under the HIPAA Security Rule, healthcare providers and organizations must “ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronically protected health information.” The HIPAA law also means that all healthcare staff must know how to comply with the legislation. Failing to protect veterinary client information could mean fines.
In the European Union, GDPR includes clauses intended to safeguard health and personal data, including protecting veterinary client information.
If a veterinary clinic collects, stores, and uses “information relating to named individuals, which could include customers (past or present), employees, suppliers, or other named individuals within [the] veterinary network,” in their day-to-day activities within the practice, GDPR is applicable.
As a result, veterinary doctors and staff need the following to ensure compliance:
- Consent – should be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous
- Data holding and processing – maintain records of processing activities
- Data audit – obtain an assessment of data held and used by the organization
- Data breach security – ensure protocols and policies for the detection, investigation, and report of a data breach
Under this law, individuals also have the “right to be forgotten” or the ability to request their data be erased from an institution’s records.
Individual rights also include rights to data access and portability, correction of inaccuracies, prevention of direct marketing, and prevention of automated decision-making and profiling.
In addition, the law requires organizations to have a data protection officer (DPO) who is an expert in data protection laws and can implement technical and organizational measures to ensure information security.
While HIPAA does not protect animal records, veterinary clinics in the US must adhere to state data protection laws for veterinary practices, depending on where their clinics are based. So far, 35 states in the US have statutes addressing patient record confidentiality for pets and even livestock, including Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, and New Jersey, among others.
For example, in California, state laws only allow sharing medical records in veterinary practice with third parties for diagnosis or treatment purposes. Aside from this purpose, the law prohibits the disclosure of animal records unless the client, or the pet owner, provides consent–or if it is for a court order, subpoena, or compliance with other state or federal laws. California laws for veterinary practice also require clinics to provide a summary of animals’ medical records to the client within five days.
Meanwhile, in Florida, Illinois, and Hawaii, animal medical records are not allowed to be shared with a third party aside from the veterinary clinic without the client’s consent or for compliance with a court order.
Cyber-Attacks in Veterinary Practices
While veterinary clinics involve animals, they still form part of the healthcare sector. Clinics hold sensitive veterinary client information–including social security information and financial details such as credit card information–that needs protection from unauthorized access.
Cyber-attacks can be disastrous for veterinary clinics’ operations. Consequences include halting of normal operations, data loss, and reputation damage.
For example, the Animal Hospital of Pensacola, a veterinary practice in Florida, was impacted by a ransomware attack in 2021. They lost access to their practice management software and veterinary client information, including patient records, appointments, and invoices. Fortunately, a secondary server stored a backup of their data, so they resolved the problem internally without needing to pay the ransom or communicate with the perpetrators.
Similarly, a veterinary clinic in New York, the York Animal Hospital, lost more than 6,000 records of veterinary client information, including pet health history, when the clinic had a ransomware attack that asked for $80K in Bitcoin in exchange for the stolen data. Per an IT specialist’s advice, they decided not to pay the ransom. However, they had to upload copies of the affected files from 2017 and contact every client through email to help them update the records. Still, they assured the clients that the hackers accessed no financial records.
Backup and Archiving for Veterinary Practices
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends protecting veterinary client information by having regular offsite backups of all of their data and additional security measures like multifactor authentication (MFA) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools for their e-mail platforms.
Backup and archiving solutions significantly increase protection for veterinary client information and other related data. Such solutions provide a “safety net” against threats and risks like ransomware attacks or accidental deletions.
Dropsuite specializes in helping veterinary clinics keep crucial business data safe, secure, and protected. Our cloud-based solution efficiently backs up, stores, preserves, and quickly restores data as necessary, at a moment’s notice. These capabilities extend across a range of cloud-based platforms like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, IMAP-POP, and Hosted Exchange.
These easy-to-use, secure, and scalable backup and recovery tools provide business continuity for veterinary clinics. IT teams in veterinary practices can set retention rates unique to the industry to maintain patient data and compliance legally.
Veterinary practices may also set legal and time-based holds in the case of lawsuits, investigations, and discovery processes, no matter where pertinent healthcare data is stored.
Dropsuite further addresses the challenges in the veterinary industry through
- Data loss protection – Our automated and secure backup solutions protect businesses’ critical data, such as website files and databases, M365 data, and email. This level of protection secures veterinary data by saving and encrypting them in the cloud, allowing for the recovery of data quickly if needed.
- Support for regulatory compliance – Dropsuite also considers the veterinary sector’s need to comply with regulations continuously. Our data backup and archiving solution ensure that clinics are HIPAA and GDPR-compliant across email, website, and related data backup, archiving, and recovery.
- Journal archiving – We empower administrators and auditors to facilitate eDiscovery and other compliance-quality archiving activities. Journaling is a tamper-proof caliber of email archiving that meets the rigorous standards of regulated authorities and the courts.
Talk to our experts here to learn more about how Dropsuite secures data for veterinary practices.