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Keeping Medical Data Secure with Games in Health

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Games in health are often used to educate patients or promote healthy lifestyles.  Now games are being used to educate physicians and medical office staff as well. As more practices adopt electronic health records, patient privacy and data security have become bigger challenges. Smaller practices particularly face challenges in complying with HIPAA standards while coping with fewer resources available for training.  Now, a new game developed by the Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is helping teach health care employees best practices for protecting medical data.

The game, “Cybersecure:  Your Medical Practice” is a web based game similar to “The Sims” in look and feel.  Players take the role of a medical practice worker and are asked to answer questions based on scenarios dealing with HIPAA privacy and security rules. If they answer correctly, they win rewards such as exam rooms, medical equipment, and points.  If the answer is wrong, they lose some of the rewards they have gained. The game is set up in three levels with a minimum score for each level required before players progress to the next level. At the end of each round players are given feedback with explanations of why their answers were right or wrong. The game also includes a glossary and tips are given throughout the game.  Practices could use player’s final scores to determine competency in privacy and data security issues, and data from the game could help employers determine areas in which additional training is needed.

The game is not intended to be the only tool medical practices need for educating employees about HIPAA compliance, but it is an important component. The game should take about thirty minutes to play and covers topics such as best practices for password security, strategies for protecting patient data, how to control access to patient data, securing and encrypting mobile devices, and how to use virus-blocking software.  While other instruction is still needed, the free web based game makes “Cybersecure” an important tool for many medical practices. The ONC says that this is only the first of a series of educational games the department plans to develop.

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