CYBER SECURITY | 5 MIN READ
In the healthcare industry, data privacy is a subject that many employees have likely heard about but may not know why it should be an integral part of their business’ operations. While HIPAA compliance is a common motivation that many organizations have in securing sensitive data, there are other key reasons that organizations should be aware of if they wish to make data privacy a top priority. Keep reading to learn about why healthcare data privacy should be a chief concern and learn 3 tips on how organizations can better secure their sensitive data.
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Why is Data Privacy Important in Healthcare?
Why is Data Privacy Important in Healthcare?
Healthcare Organizations are Increasingly Being Targeted for Cyber Attacks
In general, the number of cyber attacks against companies is increasing. Hackers know that companies have the money to pay the ransom and get their sensitive data back, and that sometimes these companies don't have the proper in-house resources to adequately secure their networks.
Healthcare organizations in particular are being targeted more. According to a HIPAA Journal study, the amount of exposed healthcare records increased 37.4% from 2018 to 2019.
The healthcare industry is a viable target because of the amount of valuable sensitive data they hold, the motivation they have to keep business operations running, and the fact that many healthcare organizations are running on outdated or improperly secured networks.
Because of the nature of their business, healthcare organizations house a lot of sensitive data within their networks. This can include patient records, which can hold information ranging from Social Security numbers and credit card information to insurance information and medical diagnosis data.
Hackers find this information in particular quite lucrative, seeing as they can either sell this information on the dark web, use it to carry out financial or identify fraud, or charge a ransom to safely return it to the victim.
A cyber attack can cause a healthcare organization's network to go offline, which can potentially have a major impact on business operations.
As opposed to other businesses who simply may have to halt administrative and sales operations, a healthcare organization whose network goes down may have to halt patient appointments, surgeries, and other medical treatment.
This can have a particularly bad effect on hospitals who house patients that are critically ill and in need of immediate care. Hackers know that healthcare organizations are more desperate to minimize downtime than other businesses, which could better motivate them into paying a ransom.
Many healthcare organizations are also running on an outdated or insecure infrastructure, which can make it easier for hackers to find network vulnerabilities. For instance, the increased immersion of Internet-of-Things (IoT) and other "smart" technology into healthcare are introducing a host of potential security gaps.
RELATED: What is Ransomware?
Avoid Non-Compliance Penalties
Healthcare organizations are bound by various data privacy regulations such as HIPAA to protect sensitive patient information.
Data breaches can cause these companies to be in violation of regulations such as HIPAA, which can lead to a host of consequences ranging from financial penalties to criminal penalties in the case of especially egregious violations.
Data privacy should be a chief concern for healthcare companies if they wish to avoid non-compliance penalties and any subsequent reputational damage.
To avoid these penalties, businesses need to thoroughly evaluate their network infrastructure and internal processes, especially when it comes to how employees handle sensitive information.
This can be done by working with their in-house IT department or a third-party managed IT services provider.
RELATED: Can Businesses Be Sued for Data Breaches?
Builds Trust with Patients and Customers
Doctor-patient trust is crucial in building a successful healthcare practice. This trust can be broken when practices use platforms that sell patient data to advertisers and other large corporations.
When this trust is broken, your patients may be hesitant to open up about their own health details, especially when they think their doctor may not be working in their best interests.
This can potentially harm a patient's health, as they may not receive accurate diagnoses without proper admittance of symptoms and medical history.
Data breaches can also break this trust, seeing as hackers will sometimes publish sensitive patient information that they steal online, especially for sale on the dark web.
When this happens, organizations can suffer reputational damage as customers may lose trust in their ability to protect patient data.
Protect your practice's reputation and build customer trust by securing sensitive data within your network and thoroughly vetting the platforms and programs you use in the workplace by trying to avoid those who sell patient data whenever possible.
How to Ensure Data Privacy
Create a Workplace Cyber Security Policy
Your employees are your weakest link when it comes to your practice's cyber security. You could have the best cyber security tools available on the market and your entire network could be brought down because one employee clicked on a phishing link or created a password that's easy to hack.
Training employees about cyber security best practices from the day they start work will help foster a culture of personal accountability. Workplace cyber security policies should include a few points.
First off, be sure to include general points about how to stay safe when working online and in programs. This can include tips such as remembering to log out of computers when they're not in use or how to securely send sensitive information to other employees.
Tips on creating secure passwords should be an integral part of any employee cyber security policy, seeing as many people do not even realize that their passwords are weak.
Advice on how to recognize and avoid phishing schemes can go a long way in preventing cyber attacks on your business. Take your workplace cyber security training a step further by sending phishing tests to your employees. These tests see which employees click on a fake phishing scheme and automatically enroll them in a training session.
RELATED: How Can I Create and Secure a Strong Password?
Implement Role-Based Security
When you let your employees access all private company information, from secure financial documents to patient files, you risk an employee with bad intentions leaking the information. Additionally, you give a hacker more chances of finding an employee with access to a certain account.
Implementing role-based security procedures minimizes the risk of important information being leaked or stolen, prevents employees with bad intentions from accessing any information they want, and keeps your organization compliant with HIPAA by preventing employees from accidentally accessing sensitive patient information they aren't authorized to.
Assign different levels of security clearance to employees based on how important it is for them to have access to that information.
For instance, a blue level employee who is simply a nurse might just have access to charting systems, while a red level employee handling the company's financials might just have access to financial accounts and programs.
RELATED: Healthcare Industry Cyber Security [9 Do's and Dont's]
Consider Managed IT Services
Data privacy is a chief concern for healthcare organizations that wish to prevent network breaches and stay compliant with regulations such as HIPAA. However, the task of staying compliant and preventing data breaches is complex and evolving,
Having little to no cyber security measures in place, such as using just a firewall or an anti-malware software, leaves your organization extremely vulnerable in the event of a cyber attack.
Robust cyber security systems with multiple layers of protection, including software, hardware, and trained IT professionals to monitor and patch up your network, ensure that your network and the private information it holds stay safe.
Consider managed IT services as a way to holistically protect your network from hackers. Managed IT services layer multiple security measures in a proactive approach.
They install and maintain up-to-date security hardware and software, educate employees on cyber security best practices, and resolve any security issues that arise.
By implementing multiple security measures, you reduce the chances of having to become reactive in the event of a cyber attack. This can save you money from potential data breach lawsuits, prevent HIPAA violations, and reduce downtime in the event of a cyber attack.
As a member of the healthcare industry, you understand the risks associated with your practice's private information getting out. Partner with a third-party company who comprehends the unique risks associated with your industry so you're well-protected in the event of a cyber attack.RELATED: In-House vs. Managed IT: Which is Better?
Use this article to spark a conversation about data security within your organization.
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Posted by Andre Schafer
Andre Schafer is a Technical Account Manager at Standard Office Systems. He has spent his entire career in the Office Technology and IT fields. For nearly 30 years, he has held various roles, including Technician, Trainer, Analyst, and Account Manager. Andre’s focus has always been to understand his customers' business needs to provide the appropriate technologies and services.