Securing your medical patient information is more than just complying with HIPAA; it is necessary to ensure that your business does not go under. Per IBM’s security report, the average data breach in the healthcare industry costs an organization around $7 million.
To prevent these breaches, many companies are making the switch to cloud-based business operations. Of course, making this move is not necessarily as easy as just downloading a new app; there are several steps you must take to ensure that unauthorized users don’t get access.
If you want to learn more about keeping medical patient information as secure as possible, you came to the right place. This brief security guide will cover ways to keep your patient’s data safe and what you can do to prevent a massive data breach.
Back up Electronic Medical Records
One way to safeguard patient information is to ensure their data is backed up electronically. HIPAA regulations require organizations to back up medical patient information electronically, especially if you move the data from one location to another.
If you choose to use a cloud backup system, ensure that the cloud provider offers end-to-end encryption to ensure that your data will always have protection. Cloud services without end-to-end encryption put your data at risk.
Secure Medical Patient Information
If you need to move your data, make sure that you always have an authorized person watching over it. That means don’t leave patient information in an area where someone could easily access it. If certain information needs to be accessed, create a system where you can keep track of who accesses what information and when.
Hire a NAID-Certified Custodial Service Provider
Most custodial service providers who handle medical information have a NAID-certified destination. This means that they have training in transporting, storing, destroying, and handling medical records.
Control Data Accessibility
As mentioned earlier, it is best to keep track of who and when someone accesses certain patient information. Medical patient data should only be accessible to a physician for a brief amount of time. They shouldn’t need to access certain patients’ information whenever they choose, especially if they aren’t accessing it for work reasons.
Most health care organizations can agree that their own employees are their most significant security risk. This is because your employees constantly access patient data to do their job. There is a high possibility that someone could accidentally release information to the wrong person.
On the other hand, if you have a patient portal, it is best to enact similar precautions to ensure that you don’t have a data leak on your client’s end. Make sure that data to specific patient information is password-protected.
How to Recognize Potential Attacks
Policies and procedures must be put in place or changed to accommodate the digitization of patient records. Many people are still trying to get used to the adoption of healthcare information technology but just making these new policies is not enough.
To ensure that there are no data leaks or data breaches, you need to train your employees on how to recognize data attacks. Employing security awareness training can provide your workers with the information they need to identify potential security threats.
It is imperative that you train your new and old employees on ways to recognize these threats. It helps to have this training every year or so to ensure compliance. If you want to learn more about safeguarding your business and your patient’s information, you can read more here.
Endpoint Protection Solutions
Regardless of the source or the nature of the cyberattack, controlling and monitoring every single endpoint is critical to ensure that your patient info stays safe and secure. You can use application whitelisting to protect all possible endpoints. This enables your organization to implement access control practices throughout the enterprise to mitigate threats.
Traditional antivirus software is suitable for personal at-home computers and laptops, but not in healthcare. Instead, it is better to move towards antimalware/antivirus software that uses AI and deep learning capabilities to detect and stop any potential threats.
Review the Devices Your Patient Data Passes Through
You will find a sea of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and more in today’s workplaces. With more of your employees accessing your business’s software and proprietary information with their own personal devices and smartphones, your patients’ info and other business-related data are at risk for a potential breach.
To reduce your chances of a breach, consider having your IT staff assess the risk of all devices that can and will access private information. Ensure that your IT team checks personal smartphones, tablets, and other devices before allowing them entry onto your premises.
This does not mean that you should pry or dig through your employee’s personal information. Instead, this means that you should look at the security capabilities of each device that can access your data.
There are many tools that can help determine what devices are already connected to your network and if there are any new ones that your system may not register to any specific employee or other staff members. Using these tools to monitor who currently has access and who recently has been brought on can give you better visibility to see what information is being transmitted and to who.
Secure Your Network and Messaging Systems
Just like how more devices make your enterprise more vulnerable, so does having more wireless connections. If your healthcare practice offers free Wi-Fi for a messaging system or for your patients to use while on-site, your data is more vulnerable.
This doesn’t mean that you should completely do away with offering free Wi-Fi to your patients; they probably chose your practice for that additional perk. Instead, it is much better to create automated procedures that update users and devices to ensure that any ex-employees or ex-patients don’t continue to have access to your information.
Updating Your Network Systems
When it comes to IT solutions for medical professionals, it is vital to keep your systems up to date with any software updates. If you don’t update your systems timely, you expose yourself to a higher risk of being breached. Software updates also help your systems run more smoothly, and it allows it to provide fixes for difficult-to-use tools.
Most organizations assume that they are doing enough to comply with HIPAA, but in general, a large percentage of organizations are doing below the bare minimum to secure their information. To help comply with HIPAA standards and to also protect your enterprise in general, it is best to use data encryption. Encrypting your medical records, heath records, or any pertinent information is a small step in the big picture, but even these small critical steps can help protect you from a breach.
Different Data Breach Threats
A data breach is an attack that exposes confidential information and files. Advanced malware and ransomware systems help a hacker attack your server, allowing them access to secret files and folders. These types of systems can easily overload and get through traditional virus software, hence why it is better to use more advanced antivirus software that uses AI.
Ransomware is a threat that encrypts infected files and revokes user access. When cybercriminals deploy ransomware attacks, they usually hold these files until a ransom is paid to release the data.
If someone gets ahold of your information and asks for payment in exchange for the data, do not pay the ransom. The criminal may take the initial payment and will request more and more before they release your information to you.
Sometimes they won’t give back the data, and there is no guarantee that they did not create their own copies. Ransomware typically infiltrates a network and can quickly paralyze your entire business.
Phishing is another major threat to the healthcare information industry. This type of attack is executed to obtain personal data from a specific user. For example, a cybercriminal may send an employee an email about a meeting or about needing to update their security systems.
Once that person opens the email, the attachment may prompt them to enter their credentials to update their systems or change their password. After they open the email and input their personal information, the cybercriminal will see the information on their end and use it to access your network.
Sometimes, phishing emails can contain malware. Once your employee opens the attachment, it can easily enter your system and take personal information.
Why Is It Essential to Take Protective Measures
Aside from complying with HIPAA, it is important to deploy these protective measures to ensure that your business does not go under. As mentioned earlier, if a cybercriminal uses ransomware, they can hold proprietary information in exchange for ransom. There is no guarantee that they will release that information, and they can easily sell that information to another criminal while collecting money from you.
Another reason why it is vital to take protective measures is to ensure that your business stays efficient. Data breaches require healthcare organizations to switch back to using pen and paper to document information while waiting for their data to come back.
As our population continues to grow and the number of clients you have continues to rise, downtime would serve as a detriment to your company. Keeping your data secure helps keep your traffic going at a steady pace while allowing your practitioners to do their job effectively.
It Is Important to Your Clients
It is more critical from a patient perspective than from a healthcare perspective when it comes to protecting medical information. Yes, protecting information on the healthcare technology side is important to prevent costly ransomware attacks or data breaches that have the potential to shut down your business. Still, patients also care about their information.
Patients want to keep their health information confidential for the sake of their own privacy, but they also want to keep it safe from a legal standpoint. Doctor-patient confidentiality agreements matter to your clients, and they want to be sure that they can count on you to keep all of their personal information safe.
You must remember that health IT software stores more than just medical history or patient records. Your client’s credit card, insurance, social security, address, and other personal information are stored in your databases.
If someone were to hack into your system, they could take your client’s information and commit identity fraud. They can use this information for themselves or sell it on the black market to other criminals to abuse. Ensuring that your database is secure is the best way to prevent these destructive attacks from happening.
Cost of a Data Breach
A data breach can easily force your company to pay up thousands if not millions of dollars for lawsuits filed against you. If your patients find out that there was a breach and that someone easily took their information, they will most likely turn to you for answers. If you cannot guarantee that you can secure their data, they will seek compensation.
The United States is the largest medical device market globally, generating over $150 billion in revenue. As technology and medical practices continue to advance, it is projected that the industry will grow to be over 210 billion dollars by 2023. Because criminals know that the health industry is worth a lot of money, they will continue to target organizations.
Protect Your Healthcare Business Today
Protecting your business is more than just buying a new traditional antimalware or antivirus software; it takes a holistic approach. Not only must you secure your enterprise with better technology, but you must also make sure that your employees and patients also follow proper protocols to safeguard against possible data breaches. If you found this article helpful and you want to learn more about how to protect your business or even your own personal information, check out our Technology section today!