The healthcare industry deals with a significant amount of sensitive information every day, thus making healthcare organizations a prime target for cyberattacks. If stolen by cybercriminals, sensitive healthcare data could be used for identity theft, extortion, and other illegal activities. These confidential data may include patient names, dates of birth, addresses, and social security numbers.
Cases of data breaches continue to put high-sensitive patient information at risk. Moreover, cyberattacks resulted in at least one data breach in 91% of healthcare organizations six years ago. And, just last year, more than 50% of all healthcare vendors exposed Protected Health Information (PHI) due to data breaches.
To protect healthcare data, organizations should take a proactive approach. This would mean implementing healthcare security practices not limited to the list below.
- Updating Or Replacing Outdated Infrastructure or Hardware
They say the only permanent thing in this world is change. Technology isn’t an exception. One of the various ways that healthcare organizations could reduce the risk of data breaches is to update their IT infrastructure. They have to ensure the latest security patches are available and installed.
However, the need to update IT infrastructure can be costly. Installing it requires distinct knowledge from professionals. Therefore, healthcare organizations must ensure they have the budget and the right people on board to carry out the process. They may do so by working with Dallas managed services provider (MSP) or the nearest IT company that will take care of all the required updates.
- Backing Up Data
A ransomware cyberattack uses malware to limit or prevent users from accessing a system. Users could only regain access after a ransom is paid. It tells us one thing – data breaches can also compromise data availability and integrity.
This is why cybersecurity experts highly recommend frequent offsite data backups. It’s the practice of protecting data by copying it from a primary to a secondary location. Most established IT companies provide this for their clients as part of their service.
Data backups are also an essential component for disaster recovery. It means that they don’t only protect data from cyberattacks but also accidents and natural disasters. Without it, devastating consequences such as disasters, accidents, and malicious actions could harm a healthcare organization’s data center.
- Choosing Trusted Third-party Providers
Many healthcare organizations outsource their processes to third-party providers. When doing so, healthcare data is only as secure as the protective measures that your partners have in place. Thus, work with a reputable provider whether you’re outsourcing transcription or medical billing.
Choosing a trusted third-party provider to reduce the risk of a healthcare data breach also applies when working with a managed IT company.
- Encrypting Data
Encryption is one of the most effective healthcare data protection methods available. It can be useful for both in transit and at rest data. Data encryption makes it more difficult for hackers to decipher patient information, even if they have gained access to it.
Thus, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), have ways to assure patients’ information is not given to the public without their consent. These include security rules such as encrypting and decrypting data, providing unique user identification, accessing emergency procedures, and using automatic log-off commands.
- Limiting Access To Data And Applications
Implementing access controls ensures that certain applications and patient information are only available to employees who vitally need these data. It bolsters healthcare data protection and is an essential component for preventing a data breach.
A recommended approach to limiting access or managing user permission is user authentication. Multi-factor authentication, for instance, requires users to validate their authorization access using at least two validation methods. They need these steps before being granted access to certain data and applications. Passwords or PINs and Biometrics, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, and eye scanning, are common validation methods used for controlling access.
- Educating Healthcare Personnel
One of the biggest security threats in the healthcare industry has always been human error or negligence. It has resulted in expensive consequences in the past and continues to be disastrous for healthcare organizations.
That’s why healthcare organizations must educate and re-educate their staff so they fully understand the implications of a data breach. Educational programs also ensure that the healthcare personnel is aware of the consequences of violating rules and regulations concerning cyber hygiene. Most importantly, training equips them with the requisite knowledge for using appropriate caution and making smart decisions when handling sensitive patient information.
The ways to reduce the risk of healthcare data breaches mentioned above might not be enough without a security risk analysis. Also, the HIPAA security rule requires an assessment to be performed periodically. Healthcare organizations must, at a minimum, conduct an annual analysis to identify vulnerabilities and areas of improvement.