Respectful Rest – Protecting Sensitive Client Data in Funeral Home Services

Nov 24, 2023 | Resources for Funeral Homes

Keeping clients’ information safe and private is a major responsibility for funeral home service providers. Funeral homes handle sensitive client data – such as financial information and the circumstances surrounding their demise – as a matter of course. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could cause many problems.

Arkansas Funeral Directors Association covers the importance of safeguarding sensitive client data and offers suggestions on how to go about doing so:

Why should you prioritize safeguarding client data?
Funeral homes carry data that is of interest to people with ill intent, such as hackers, identity thieves, and, sometimes, the deceased’s family members. Protecting this information is an ethical as well as legal (when applicable) responsibility:

  • Ethical responsibility: Keeping your client’s information safe is a moral obligation and the hallmark of a good business. Most funeral homes in Arkansas operate under their own ethical guidelines.
  • Retaining client trust: Your clients rely on you to keep their and their loved ones’ information safe. A funeral home that breaks this trust is likely to lose its reputation quickly.
  • Relevant laws: Client data may fall under a variety of state and federal regulations. Some examples include the Arkansas Personal Information Protection Act (APIPA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, common law privacy, and health information privacy (like HIPAA).

Safeguarding On-Site Records
Funeral homes have to maintain a variety of records – such as contracts, the client’s death certificate, health information, embalming or cremation information, and similar – for several years (up to 7). This is often done without good safety measures. Here are some suggestions to up your security:

1. Implement secure storage
Keep paper records under lock and key away from your regular area of operations. You can lock drawers and cabinets, for example, and keep them in a private room. Only keep the records you need for current operations at hand and keep long-term records separately. Be conscientious about how you store paper documents.

2. Add access restrictions
Implementing access restrictions is essential even if you trust employees – people make mistakes and can be careless. With access restriction, you ensure only the people who need the information can get to it. Also, implement guidelines for safe retrieval and storage of records.

3. Use smart tech protection and monitoring
Smart tech is a fantastic way of automating much of your on-site security. You can have cameras and other gadgets to monitor critical areas remotely and inform you of unauthorized access. Also, you can use smart tech to implement automatic access control. Installation is straightforward – you could do it yourself by following online guides. It’s equally easy to troubleshoot problems, if any.

Safeguarding Electronic Records
Not all funeral homes follow electronic data storage and safety best practices, making them vulnerable to phishing and other forms of hacking. Here are some e-data safety suggestions:

1. Encryption and other safety best practices
Make sure to encrypt (and/or password lock) any electronic information you store. Use anti-virus software and firewalls to protect your network. Keep your hardware devices locked, limit Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and be careful with portable storage devices.

2. Regular updates
Hackers are constantly attempting to find security holes in software, and developers are constantly patching these holes up. Not updating the software you use for internal or external operations frequently allows hackers to exploit known vulnerabilities.

3. Cybersecurity training
The easiest way for funeral directors to have secure processes is to outsource to a cybersecurity expert. This isn’t always feasible though. You could pursue a cybersecurity training program if you’re computer-savvy. Knowing the ins and outs of cybersecurity is important in this digital age. Online certificate programs are an option – they’re remote and convenient. This may be worth reviewing.

Employee training
Human error is the number one reason data breaches happen. Training your employees is arguably the best way to keep your client’s data safe. Some suggestions are covering common hacking methods, providing operating guidelines, and having your own organizational data privacy regulations. Here are some other worthwhile training suggestions from eWeek.

Conclusion
You don’t necessarily have to move the earth to keep your client’s information safe; it is more simple than that. Being aware of data safety best practices and training your employees on the same will go a long way toward safeguarding client data and, also, cementing the reputation of your funeral home as a business that’s both confidential and trustworthy.


Image via Unsplash

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