a credit card behind an abstract illustration of a cloud and heart beat
  1. The Helcim Blog
  2. Merchant Guides

Everything to Know About PCI Compliance in Healthcare Payment Processing

Author Image

Alivia Massimillo | April 8, 2024

“Observing PCI DSS standards is one of the most effective measures your healthcare business can take to beef up its data security. ”
8 min read
  • Content

    Given how frequently we hear about data breaches, it’s clear that taking proactive steps to protect sensitive information is no longer optional, but a necessity. Thankfully, observing PCI DSS standards is one of the most effective measures your healthcare business can take to beef up its data security.

    After all, it’s no secret that data breaches in healthcare don’t just lead to financial losses; they can significantly erode patient trust - something that is incredibly hard to rebuild.

    By striving for PCI DSS compliance, you’re doing more than just following rules. You’re sending a message to your patients that their security is your top priority. It’s about making a commitment to maintain the highest level of data protection, ensuring that your patients can trust you with their most sensitive information.

    What is PCI compliance?

    In the simplest terms, PCI compliance means adhering to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

    Created back in 2004 by major card companies, the PCI DSS is all about keeping credit and debit card transactions safe from data theft and fraud. It’s a set of guidelines that ensure when your patients trust you with their card information, you’re keeping it safe and secured by sticking to the highest security standards. Why does this matter to you?

    Following these guidelines isn’t just about avoiding trouble. When you comply with PCI DSS, you’re building an environment where patients can swipe, tap, or click with confidence knowing their data is handled with care.

    The 12 requirements of PCI DSS defined

    Firewall configuration to safeguard cardholder data

    The first protocol is to ensure a solid barrier against cyber threats. This means you should configure and regularly maintain a firewall, creating specific equipment standards that withstand changes in hardware or software.

    Swap vendor-supplied defaults for custom security parameters

    Refrain from using default system passwords or security settings. No “admin/admin”! Customize these before using any new system, ensuring immediate protection against threats.

    Preserve cardholder data securely

    Only store data required for functional or legal needs. If you must store data, keep it to a minimum and securely protect it. Regular quarterly purges and limited display of primary account numbers can be part of this process.

    Encrypt cardholder data during transmission over open, public networks

    Public networks can be a hotbed for cyberthieves. Safeguard your data in transit by using strong encryption and security protocols.

    Regularly update anti-virus software or programs

    Keep all systems, including employee workstations or handheld devices, under the continuous protection of up-to-date antivirus software.

    Develop secure systems and applications

    Keep your software guarded against exploits through regular patch updates. Create a process for discovering and ranking new vulnerabilities.

    Restricted access to cardholder data

    Not all employees require access to all data. Limit access to “need-to-know” basis, denying any requests that aren’t specifically permitted.

    Unique ID for each user

    Security is improved when each user’s activity can be traced back to them. Remember to enforce dual-factor authorization for remote access.

    Limited physical access to cardholder data

    Access control needs to extend into the physical world. Control, monitor, and log on-site access, adhere to information distribution procedures, and destroy all unwanted or out-of-use media.

    Monitor network resources and data

    Keep a keen eye on your network’s access points; their vulnerabilities can expose your data. Regular monitoring and testing are key.

    Regular testing of security systems and processes

    It’s essential to review the effectiveness of controls through regular testing, ensuring your measures remain robust against existing and emerging threats.

    Policy that manages information security for all personnel

    Last but not the least, establish a security policy that sets the rules for your entire team. Ensure everyone abides to keep leveraging data without compromise.

    What are the struggles of PCI DSS compliance in healthcare?

    Getting PCI DSS compliance in healthcare isn’t straightforward. The sector’s complex environment and the delicate nature of the data involved bring unique challenges. Here’s a snapshot of the main hurdles that you might face when it comes to achieving PCI compliance:

    Complex network segmentation

    Healthcare institutions often operate extensive and complex networks to support a wide range of services, from patient care to billing.

    Implementing network segmentation - a key requirement for PCI DSS compliance - becomes an intricate task. It requires splitting the network into secure segments or sub-networks to ensure that access to cardholder data is strictly controlled and isolated from the rest of the network operations. The aim is to limit an attacker’s access in case they do breach the defenses.

    Achieving this level of segregation without disrupting patient care or data flow requires meticulous planning and execution.

    Dealing with legacy systems

    A large portion of healthcare IT infrastructure is composed of legacy systems that may no longer be supported by the manufacturer or have outdated security features, making them highly vulnerable to cyber threats.

    These systems often cannot be easily upgraded or replaced due to the critical applications they support or budgetary constraints. This reality creates a substantial hurdle in meeting PCI DSS standards, which demand up-to-date security protocols to protect cardholder data.

    Multi-regulatory compliance

    Healthcare organizations face the challenge of adhering to multiple regulatory standards simultaneously.

    Besides PCI DSS compliance, there is also the need to comply with the HIPAA, which governs security and privacy of patient health information.

    Each has its set of regulations tailored to protect sensitive information, but the overlap isn’t as much as you’d hope - meaning there are lots more boxes to check! This dual compliance can stretch resources thin and necessitate a careful balancing act to ensure that both sets of regulations are met without compromise.

    Leveraging technology and the right payment processor for PCI compliance

    Staying on top of PCI compliance requires a smart blend of technology and strategy. The right tech stack not only simplifies the compliance process but also fortifies your defense against data breaches. This is where the selection of technology and payment processor becomes paramount.

    Let’s learn more about how integrating third-party solutions, focusing on encryption, and opting for secure data storage can make PCI compliance easier for you to achieve.

    The power of third-party solutions

    Leveraging third-party solutions can be a game-changer for organizations aiming for PCI compliance. These solutions are designed to shoulder some of the heavy liftings, particularly in handling and securing payment data.

    By choosing a reputable third-party payment processor provider, you can minimize the amount of sensitive data you need to deal with directly. Encryption and Secure Data Storage: The Non-Negotiable Defense Mechanisms

    Encryption is a critical, non-negotiable requirement of PCI compliance. Encryption ensures that even if data gets intercepted, it remains indecipherable and useless to unauthorized eyes.

    The latest in encryption tech secures data both when in transit and when it’s stored, making it a critical component of both immediate and long-term data protection strategies. This is where secure data storage solutions come in, providing a safe place for storing sensitive information.

    By prioritizing encryption and secure storage, you can significantly mitigate risks associated with data breaches.

    Finding a partner with Helcim

    In the healthcare industry, keeping patient data safe is absolutely essential. It’s not just something that’s nice to have but is something you must do because patients trust you and the law requires it.

    Being compliant with PCI DSS is a key part of keeping that data safe, especially when it comes to payment information. When patients see that their payment information is handled securely, they feel more confident in your organization, and your reputation gets a boost.

    Helcim gets how important it is for you to follow PCI standards and recognizes that the process can be daunting. This is why we have designed our services as a tailored solution for organizations like yours, aimed at simplifying compliance efforts without the complexities.

    Our platform is built with compliance in mind, offering encrypted payment processing and secure data storage right off the bat. This alleviates you from the technical strain and allows you to focus on growth and operational excellence. We adhere to PCI Data Security Standards without imposing any additional fees on you for critical features like data encryption, tokenization, and key management. This means you get a comprehensive, secure payment processing solution that is inherently PCI compliant - all with zero PCI fees.

    And what further sets Helcim apart is not just our commitment to maintaining a secure and compliant payment processing environment, but also our ability to do so in a manner that is manageable for organizations.

    Frequently asked questions

    Why is PCI DSS compliance important for healthcare organizations?

    PCI DSS compliance is crucial for healthcare organizations because they often process payments through credit and debit cards. Compliance ensures that this payment information is kept secure, reducing data breach risks, and fraud. By being PCI compliant, an organization maintains patient trust and complies with legal and regulatory obligations.

    How does PCI DSS compliance relate to HIPAA regulations in healthcare?

    Both bodies serve to protect sensitive information, but they focus on different areas. While HIPAA is concerned with the protections of all patient health information, PCI Dss specifically aims to secure card payment data. For healthcare organizations that handle card payments, achieving PCI DSS compliance also supports HIPAA compliance by strengthening the overall security posture and protecting patient information.

    What are the consequences for healthcare entities that fail to comply with PCI DSS?

    Non-compliance with PCI DSS can have several negative implications for healthcare entities. These can include hefty fines, increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies, the potential for lawsuits in the event of data breach, and damage to the organization’s reputation. Additionally, non-compliance could lead to higher transaction fees or even the revocation of card processing privileges.

    Do smaller healthcare practices also need to be PCI DSS compliant?

    Yes. Any healthcare practice that processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, regardless of its size, needs to be PCI DSS compliant. The scale of the practice may influence the specific requirements and processes for compliance, but the fundamental responsibility to protect payment card info remains constant across all healthcare providers.

    Is PCI DSS compliance the sole responsibility of the healthcare organization or do payment vendors share this responsibility?

    While payment vendors also need to be PCI DSS compliant, the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that payment processes are secure falls on the healthcare organization. This means that while healthcare providers should choose compliant vendors, they also need to manage and oversee the entire payment process, ensuring that every part, from the point of sale to the final transaction, adheres to PCI DSS standards. Collaboration and due diligence are key to maintaining compliance and securing payment transactions.

    It's time to feel good about your payments.

    Sign up instantly with no paperwork or commitments.

    Call to action background version 2 image

    We're always
    here to help.

    New to accepting card payments? We take the time to help you understand how it all works so you can make the best decisions for your business.

    • Speak to a real person, fast
    • Experts you can trust
    • No commission = no pressure
    Show more

    Have us contact you.

    Contact name cannot be blank
    Business name cannot be blank
    Please provide a valid email address
    Phone number cannot be blank

    The form was sent successfully!