In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) defined standards for safeguarding the sensitive, confidential data of all patients. The act requires health insurance providers to enforce strict privacy and security rules, each designed to protect the patient and all electronically protected health information, known as e-PHI.
When entering the healthcare domain, it is integral that your team understands the specific regulations set forth by HIPAA so that they are included in your testing plan and strategy. As you gear up for healthcare software testing, remember these strategies to ensure full compliance:
- Access Control
Within an application, a user should be allowed to access only the minimum amount of information needed to complete a given task. Strict access control can be achieved with four approaches:
- An access control list which allows user access only to specific applications/modules/areas.
- User-based access which requires identity certification for entry.
- Role-based access which relies on a user's role to determine access rights. For example, a user with multiple job functions will have multiple roles and thus multiple rights information access.
- Context-based access which restricts access to certain dates/times or devices within a specified information system or network.
- Encrypted Data Transfers
All data shared among users should be fully encrypted, and only decrypted by authorized users. The same applies to data that is stored in the cloud, or by any other means. Following testing, you should perform risk analysis in the event of any data loss during transfer or unauthorized access attempts.
- Data Sanitization
When performing application testing for a healthcare organization, make it a standard practice to exchange any patient data with test data. For example, you will remove any existing field data (name, address, SSN number, phone number, etc.) and replace it with generic data.
- Structured Test Data Approach:
Standardize the test data used for verification and validation of modules within the application. For example, if you are testing the generation of reports for a patient, the provided data might be:
Data structuring helps define the testing performed at different levels and across different parameters.
- Audit Trail
Implement an audit trail to monitor all actions involving patient data. This includes modifications, deletions, additions, and just about any other action you can imagine. Along with the action, the audit trail logs the time that it occurred and the user that performed it. Any suspicious activity or data breach can be referenced against the audit trail to determine the origin.
- Failover/Load Balancing
This is perhaps the most vital aspect in the healthcare domain, as loss of patient data can put a life on the line. Failover plans and load balancing are used to verify the system's ability to continue day-to-day operations while back-ups are performed. It also determines if a system is able to allocate additional resources when needed, and if it can recognize that need once it arises. A strong failover strategy, implemented correctly and tested thoroughly, should provide near-complete data protection, minimal data loss, and immediate recovery in the event of error.
In the healthcare domain, the stakes are very high. This is all the more reason to pay close attention to your QA team and your software testing strategy. The end result will be a solid, dependable product, a happy client, and protected patients.
Can you think of any other testing strategies that are unique to the healthcare domain? Leave a comment below to start a discussion. Ready for the full run-down on how to refine your healthcare software testing strategy to meet HIPAA compliance? Download the complete guide by clicking below!