Anaesthetists deal with a large amount of patient health data. As such, it’s incredibly important for you to maintain a high level of security.
Often, it’s tricky to know if you’re doing everything possible to ensure the security of your work or data. We’ve provided our list of top security practices, in the hope that these may help you in both your professional and personal life.
1. Delete Old Data
Whether you shred old patient notes or delete patient files from your computer, once you’ve finished with medical data, you’re best destroying it. You can do this in one of two ways:
- Manually – Every doctor’s home office should have a good cross cut shredder. This way, you can easily destroy any old paperwork, including old receipts and bank statements, as well as patient files. We use the Fellowes H-8cd model . We’ve had to return a few different models over the years, so we now stick with Fellowes. We only buy them from Good Guys, or Officeworks as we’ve found them very good with returns, in case we should need to send another one back.
- Digitally – Delete emailed pre-op forms once the operation’s over. And empty your computer trash regularly. Only keep patient information that you think you’ll need again in the future.
2. Label your belongings
We’re always surprised at how few people do this. It only takes a moment to put a sticker on your belongings. Consider the following:
- Is your work bag labelled with your phone number?
- What about your car keys?
- Is your number written on the back of your phone?
- Do you use a notebook to store patient info? If so, please label it!
- Is there anything else you take into your surgery, like a Bose mini sound-system? Label these items, too!
- And don’t forget to label your drivers license. We recently received a phone call late on a Saturday night from a city hotel that had found one of our members’ wallets. Thankfully, the hotel had googled the anaesthetist’s name and found him on our site. They then called us. It was easy for us to get in touch with him and let him know where his wallet was. Of course, he was frantically searching for it when we called! Write your number, or your partner’s number, on your license. This will go some way to ensuring you do get it back if it’s found.
- Which labeler? We use a great label writer at home—the Dymo Labelwriter 450. Alternatively, you can use your children’s school labels. We label all our son’s items with his first initial, his surname and our phone number. It’s easy to use these stickers for our possessions, too.
3. Activate phone tracking software
What would you do if you lost your phone? Could you find it easily?
If you have an iPhone, then you also have software called ‘Find my iPhone’ that allows you to log into your computer and see exactly where your phone was last spotted. You can also activate ‘lost mode’ and remotely erase the contents of your phone.
We also use an app called ‘Find my Friends’ which is very handy if you need to find your partner’s phone. Once, we left one of our phones in an Uber. Using ‘Find my Friends’, we could see exactly where it was and call the driver directly.
4. Track your devices
Use a handy gadget like ‘Tile’ to track the location of your keys. You can even place one of these in your car, on your bike, your stethoscope or even on your child’s pram, ensuring you can find your valuables if they ever get lost.
5. Use a passcode for your phone
Set your phone up to delete all of its stored data if too many failed access attempts are made. If you have a child who uses your phone, it’s also great to set up ‘Guided Access’ while they’re using it.
6. Practice good password management
Use long passwords with a mixture of characters. Try to change your passwords often, don’t use actual words and, if possible, keep them unique to each account.
If this is too much to manage, you could choose a default password and, each time, add a unique code at the beginning, specific to the account. e.g “[email protected](” would become “[email protected](” for Facebook and “[email protected](” for Instagram
7. Set-up two-step verification
Use this for your online files, banking and email – Gmail (instructions here), Dropbox (instructions here) and most banks now offer two-step verification (also called two-factor authentication) which allows you to lock down your accounts. To log into your account from a new device, you’ll not only need your username and password, but you’ll also be sent a text message with a special code to enter.
8. Consider motion sensors
With specialist devices, securing your home is easier than ever before. We use ‘Ring’ as a doorbell and have motion sensors placed all around the outside of our home, acting as sensor lights. They can send you a mobile notification to alert you if someone enters your property. You can also set it up to make a noise within the house, using a connected ‘Chime’ device… However Ring’s support is beyond shocking (we’ve already returned the 1st one and are onto the 2nd generation which is better but not perfect) and unless you have super fast upload speeds I’d research finding another one as more are coming onto the market each day. The principal behind a motion sensing doorbell is awesome though and I thoroughly recommend looking into it.
9. Lock your study door
Where do you keep all your patient paperwork? If you have any prescription drugs at home, can your children reach them?
We have a lock on our study door that makes it easy for us to keep everything contained. This will be especially useful if you ever have tradespeople or cleaners come into your home when you’re not there. What’s more, it’s essential if you have small children around. We use this code handle lock from Bunnings but any similar device would no doubt do the trick:
10. Be careful what you click
If you receive an email link that looks remotely suspicious, don’t click it! If an uninvited stranger arrived on your doorstep, most likely you’d want to see some identification before you let them into your home. Be email safe – don’t open any files you aren’t expecting.
11. Update your software regularly, but not on the first major update
If Apple releases a new major software update, for example iOS 11.5, we always wait until at least the second iteration, for example 11.5.1 or 11.5.2, before we install it. We do this in case there are bugs in the major update, which does often happen.
12. Install anti-virus protection
We like Avast but there are plenty of great, low cost (or free!) anti-virus programs available for both Windows and Mac. Make sure your system and files are safe from intruders and corruption. There’s nothing worse than having to start from scratch.
13. Backup your data
Protect and encrypt your files and use several backup devices, just in case one fails. We’re sure your computer contains hours and hours of your hard work – we’d hate for you to lose it.
14. Never leave your devices unattended
Turn on auto lock, shut your computers down and keep your backup devices locked away.
You wouldn’t leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, so don’t risk your patients’ data by doing the same with your computer!
15. Never share your computer login, passwords or Wi-Fi
Instead, set up a secondary profile for friends and family to use. We also recommend you do the same with your devices.
Our advice is to put your main computer onto your primary Wi-Fi account, but to connect any other devices such as your security system, TV or guest devices to a secondary profile, with a different password.
16. Use a VPN whenever you use a public network
Your IP address is a unique online identifier. IPs show which computer is accessing sites and its approximate location.
By using a VPN when you’re out and about, you can hide your IP address and run all your online data via a secure and encrypted virtual tunnel. This tunnel will stop websites from tracking your online activity and will even prevent them from knowing which country you’re browsing in.
A VPN will keep you much safer on public networks, such as those you may access in hospitals and airports. I use ‘Private Internet Access‘
17. Guard your personal data
There are so many dodgy callers out there, and they all claim to need your personal data to assist you with your phone bill, bank account etc. Never reward these unsolicited callers with your name, date of birth or address. If they called you, you have no idea who they could be.
And if that’s not enough to think about, avoid saying ‘yes’ when you’re on the phone to these callers, too. Sound crazy? Nowadays, there are even telephone scams that record your voice, in particular your ‘yes’, and use these clips to trick voice recognition software.
18. Consider this final list of random security tips
- Set your car to unlock only the driver’s side door, and lock your doors when you drive;
- If you’re parking in the city late at night, try to park outside a bank as they are usually well lit, busy and have cameras around them;
- Don’t park next to vans in parking lots;
- Don’t keep your insurance paperwork anywhere that’s easy for a thief to find it. One of our friends had all their valuables stolen when thieves found their insurance paperwork in their filing cabinet and used it to decide what was worth stealing;
- Use colour-coded locks on your doors, such as red and green, so you can easily see what remains to be locked up at night;
- Remove any labels from packaging, including prescription boxes, before you throw it out or recycle it. You don’t want someone discovering your name, address and phone number and that you just bought a really expensive computer or that you are a doctor and in possession of a drug they want;
- Give companies different birthdays. Only your bank should have your real birthday on file. Instead of using your true birthdate, use an alternative birthday for all other accounts, such as shopping loyalty cards etc.;
- Clip your bag into your shopping trolley or behind your seat in restaurants;
- If you’re going on holiday, don’t post it on social media. Or, at least, wait until you get home to tell everyone;
- Make payments with PayPal. If you’re shopping on a website for the first time, pay using PayPal rather than using your credit card details. PayPal offers great buyer protection should your item fail to arrive. What’s more, it’s usually very easy to claim;
- Completely wipe hard drives before you sell your devices or give them away. Run the delete process multiple times to be sure it works;
- Be alert. If something feels off or doesn’t give you the right vibe, walk away from it. Always follow your gut instinct.
We hope these tips are useful to you and provide some valuable food for thought. If you have any questions, think we’ve missed anything important from our list, or have some handy tips of your own, we’d love to hear from you!