Veterinary practices have a crucial job: preserving the health of people's pets and livestock. To stay current and streamline their operations, veterinary professionals rely on technology like record-tracking software and other digital solutions, which pose data privacy and security risks.
When it comes to complying with federal and state data protection laws, veterinarians often turn to Mahan Law.
Our firm advises veterinarians around the country on all aspects of practice ownership, including data privacy and security. When you consult with us, our experienced veterinary attorneys will guide you on how to protect your practice from data loss, cyberattacks, and other data security risks. Contact us today to set up a consultation.
Veterinary Laws and Regulations on Data Privacy
Data privacy laws govern how businesses handle data electronically and what they must do to protect sensitive data. Veterinary practices must adhere to data privacy laws, such as:
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPAA is a federal law that requires healthcare providers and business associates who handle health information to comply with it. Under the HIPAA Security Rule, healthcare providers and organizations must "ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronically protected health information."
In short, the law governs the protection of people's health information; however, it does not cover animals' health information because pets and livestock are considered property and not persons. At the same time, HIPAA requires the security of veterinary client information including the animal owner's name, address, and similar private information.
State Data Protection Laws
While HIPAA does not protect animal records, veterinary clinics must adhere to state data protection laws for veterinary practices, depending on their location. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 35 states have statutes addressing confidentiality for pets and livestock, including California, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky, among others.
For example, California law only allows sharing medical records in veterinary practice with third parties for diagnosis or treatment purposes and prohibits the disclosure of animal records unless the pet owner provides consent or for compliance with a court order, subpoena, or other state or federal laws.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky and Florida, animal records cannot be released to 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
Veterinary clinics hold sensitive client information, including Social Security information and financial details such as credit card information, that must be protected 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, a veterinary practice in Florida was impacted by a ransomware attack in 2021, losing access to its practice management software and client information, including patient records, appointments, and invoices. Fortunately, their data was stored on a secondary server and the problem was resolved internally.
Backup and Archiving for Veterinary Practices
The AVMA recommends protecting veterinary client information by backing up all data offsite and taking additional security measures like multifactor authentication (MFA) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools for their e-mail platforms.
Other steps veterinary practices and hospitals can take to protect client information include:
- Limiting employee access to client information
- Changing passwords and access rights when an employee leaves
- Using symbols and numbers in passwords
- Utilizing multi-layered security software
- Deploying firewalls and anti-virus protection on all devices
- Utilizing encryption software
- Updating security software and operating systems regularly
- Storing data on the cloud with a reliable partner like AWS
- Shredding sensitive paper documents
Given the challenges of staying up-to-date with technological advances and data security requires, working with an experienced veterinary attorney is essential.
Contact Our Experienced Veterinary Data Privacy Attorneys
At Mahan Law, we understand the unique challenges veterinary practices face in managing data security. Our expertise extends to advising you on the intricate web of state-specific laws that relate to animal medical records. As your legal partner, we focus on implementing robust security protocols to safeguard sensitive information. We guide you in limiting employee access to confidential data, securing your systems with state-of-the-art security software, and ensuring regular updates to your digital infrastructure.
Our approach is proactive. We help you establish best practices for data management, including password policies, encryption methods, and cloud storage solutions. In the event of employee turnover, we advise on modifying access rights to maintain security. We also specialize in disaster recovery planning, ensuring that your practice is prepared for any unforeseen events.
We understand that your focus is on providing the best care for animals. Let us handle the complexities of data security and legal compliance, freeing you to concentrate on what you do best. Reach out to Mahan Law for a partnership that protects and supports your veterinary practice in this digital age.