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Top Security Concerns in Virtual Case Management

June 3, 2021

With virtual case management techniques becoming far more common, the need for enhanced security and compliance measures is rising.

Clients provide all kinds of sensitive information to nonprofit organizations in order to get the assistance they need, and they trust that these organizations will work hard to keep their data secure. Unfortunately, breaches still occur, which can leave vulnerable populations even more exposed to cyber attack and various forms of exploitation. 

Keeping personally identifiable information (PII) safe is a vital part of the case management universe, and methods for doing so must evolve with the times. As virtual case management (VCM) becomes more and more mainstream, security and compliance will need to extend beyond simply encrypting and storing data. Securing data starts with the everyday operations and communication between case managers and the clients they serve, since many of these tasks are now being performed through digital and internet-connected devices and applications. After all, VCM’s goal is to build relationships and trust in spite of a lack of physical connection, which is why it’s so important to do it right.

What exactly is security and compliance, and how do they help virtual case management work as it should?

Security and compliance regulations are intimately interwoven throughout all aspects of case management, both in client-facing operations and behind the scenes. The goal of these regulations is to keep clients safe from dangers like identity theft, financial fraud and strain, illegal information trade, internet harassment, assault, abuse, and much more. The last thing anyone needs is to be left vulnerable to personal attacks from people and organizations with unsavory motives. 

Government entities and nonprofit leadership committees set standards for data use, limiting which staff members in an organization can see what. When properly applied, these regulations act like a security system for a commercial building. First, to get into the building, staff need to be given access, just as many case managers have to be given access to client information in order to effectively do their work. Then, there are various checkpoints within the building (or case management system) to ensure that only people who are given express access and permission can see and use different locations or various sensitive information. It can get even more specific, too, such as only allowing certain people into important “vaults” or storage areas. From there, they may also only be allowed access to certain parts of those areas, and only for certain reasons. In a digital environment, this can include only allowing case managers and staff members to collaborate with specific people on projects, only talk with their assigned clients, and only read but not edit certain information at a given time. It can also mean making sure that information stays in one place and can’t be compromised by someone transferring it to another place.

These standards allow for the implementation of advanced levels of safety and accountability for humanitarian organizations and their clients alike. Some of these standards that most case managers are familiar with include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD)/Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) regulations. Along with these regulations, which are mandated by the government, a nonprofit organization may—and should—also choose to establish their own standards of security and compliance, making sure that every staff member is trained on proper procedure.

What are some of the top security and compliance issues and needs that nonprofit organizations should be aware of when using VCM methods?

System Reliability

One of the first steps to meeting security and compliance standards is using the right kind of case management software from the start. There are many options available on the market, but not all of them have the features your organization would need to maintain privacy and confidentiality. Some may lack accountability or skilled maintenance personnel, or they may cut corners. The weaker or less reliable the case management system is, the more likely it is to be breached—which can have dire consequences for both the organization and its clients.

Training and accountability

All case managers and staff members need to be trained in best practices for virtual case management as defined by each organization’s needs. Every humanitarian organization should look at its clientele and determine a set of rules that can help define how virtual case management tasks should be done. If people within an organization aren’t aware of what they are and are not allowed to do, gaps in security can be left wide open without anyone even knowing they’re there.

Technical knowledge and application

Every humanitarian organization that uses virtual case management needs a designated staff member or team of staff members to handle the technical and IT infrastructure of the case management system. These people need to know how to be on the lookout for breaches, errors, updates, and alerts, and know how to assess and respond to them in a timely manner. Furthermore, they should be able to help educate all other staff members on how to manage their caseloads securely.

Application of VCM techniques

Each case manager and staff member should carefully follow protocol to ensure VCM techniques are leveraged safely and correctly. In each case management scenario, they should be able to determine which actions they can take and which they cannot, and be able to pass this information along to clients as needed. Additionally, they should be able to facilitate discussions and interactions with their clients in a way that helps clients understand how their programs or services operate and how they can do their part to keep their information safe.

What are some case management programs and services in which security and compliance are most necessary?

Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence

In a domestic violence/IPV scenario, security is a top priority, because abusers are known to pursue their victims after leaving the abusive environment. Keeping all information completely confidential and having set regulations to determine who knows what about a client can provide them with the safety and opportunities they need to recover and rebuild.

Homeless Management

Clients in need of shelter are at risk members of the community, and circumstances leading to and surrounding homelessness are complex. It’s important to protect this population’s information when they are most vulnerable, especially as they are more prone to be targeted and taken advantage of. 

Employment Assistance

Looking for a job involves giving out a lot of sensitive information, and if that information is compromised, it can lead to identity theft, financial distress, and many other unfavorable outcomes.

Senior Care

Senior clients are also high-risk when it comes to data breaches because of the level of care they often need. Many of them may lack advocates who will help fight for their needs and rights, and their protected health information could be susceptible to theft.

Health Services

Clients who need nutritional assistance, mental/behavioral health treatment, or recovery from injury or surgery often seek out humanitarian organizations because they have limited resources, income, and/or physical ability to take care of themselves. Due to the sensitive information these clients provide, it’s essential for nonprofits to guard that data closely. 

Foster Care and Education

Children are some of the most at-risk members of the population as they learn who they are and who they want to be. They don’t have the advantage of an adult’s physical and mental maturity, cannot legally take care of themselves, are under the age of consent, and need quality education in order to overcome the many challenges that they’ll have to face once they become adults. Children are an easy target for many forms of exploitation and abuse, and it’s up to their guardians and case managers to look after them and keep them and their PII safe.

The CaseWorthy Difference

We’ve seen firsthand the benefits and challenges that have arisen as a result of the use of virtual case management, and we’re keenly aware of the level of security and compliance that needs to be established within many organizations. That’s why the software we develop is fully equipped to handle it all. Our proprietary servers are professionally monitored, and we do everything we can to ensure that the data you manage through our system is kept private and secure.

Additionally, our main VCM tool, CommHUB, is equipped to handle your case management communication needs. It can help you administer your nonprofit’s programs and services, and it is being continuously updated to meet the needs of changing times.

If you’d like to learn more about virtual case management and the security and compliance standards that need to guide it, contact us today! We’d love to discuss this topic and build a relationship with you.

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