Patient data is critical to operations and a valuable resource that makes it attractive to cyber criminals
We live in an increasingly data-rich society. This can be very useful to the medical industry in a number of ways. It enables professionals, whether in clinical, insurance, or administrative roles, to gain deeper insights that can improve patient lives. Not to mention, it supports practices that improve productivity, accuracy, and efficiency.
However, this dependence on electronically stored and shared information harbors considerable risks, which not least make the healthcare industry a target for cybercrime. A recent study found that approximately 26% of all Americans are affected by data breaches in the medical sector. In order to continue to benefit from the advantages of the data, managers, influencers and employees on site must develop strategies to protect patients.
Of course, that’s not always easy. However, there are some best practices to start today that can make a significant difference to your data security, regardless of aspects of the industry in which you are in. Let’s look at some of them.
There’s no denying that the healthcare industry benefits from data. In many ways Data analysis is seen as an essential aspect the healthcare landscape that doctors, pharmaceutical providers and insurers alike use to make more cost-conscious decisions. The most relevant and actionable analyzes are performed on the highest quality data, leading to a growing trend in the industry to collect as much information as possible from patients. Unfortunately, the more data you collect, the greater your target for cybercriminals.
It is therefore important to handle your data collection with consideration. Be sure to understand what actually needs to be gathered on a helpful patient. Arbitrarily collecting all possible information about a patient during a single appointment is not only excessive but also irresponsible. Try to be more conscious when collecting data. In your practice, create logs that mean employees need to justify why they are collecting certain data and what it is specifically used for.
This also applies to decisions about how and when information is collected and stored together. It is now common practice for medical companies to remove patient data from personal data and sell it to data mining companies. While identification codes instead of patient names and social security numbers could make it seem like patients are protected, It is getting easier and easier for bad actors to identify people through their anonymous data. Obviously, the best course of action here is that medical professionals don’t sell patient records, but that is not always possible. However, patients should be advised of their right to veto the use of their data in these circumstances. In addition, employees who are clear about what information is being shared with different areas of the medical company and restrict access, unless medically necessary, to at least minimize the risk of violations.
One of the most basic but crucial best practices for protecting patient data is to be vigilant about the software systems you use. There are already Compliance requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which regulates the management of data in electronic systems. Any software your facility uses to interact with patient personal or medical information must at the very least maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the records, detect and protect against appropriate threats, and protect against improper disclosure of data.
However, you need to go beyond the HIPAA minimum requirements. After all, it’s very general legislation that doesn’t always take into account the evolving nature of cybersecurity threats in technology. If, as in many medical fields, You are using telemedicine software for remote appointments, research the level of live encryption provided by potential platforms. The same is true of any new technology that you or your partners, if you are one of the many medical offices that outsource medical billing, want to use now and in the future.
One of the most important security mistakes you can make with software is assuming that after doing some initial research, you can get into it and that it will continue to be secure. There is no such thing as permanent security in software. Criminals are creative and persistent. Make sure that your IT department regularly obtains and installs security updates for the applications you use. It may also be advisable to hire a cybersecurity advisor from time to time to review your tools and processes in order to identify possible vulnerabilities in your systems and help you remediate them accordingly.
It is important to be aware of this What makes healthcare such an attractive destination? for cyber criminals. This certainly means that the type of data collected, financial, medical and personal data, are particularly valuable. However, a major factor is the tendency for healthcare facilities to be poorly safe. In most cases, these vulnerabilities are not caused by software or hardware, but by the behavior of employees.
In most cases, these are not employees who maliciously allow data breaches. Unless the focus is on the importance of safe practices, bad habits can easily creep in – especially since attack techniques and threats can change so frequently. This can be mitigated by involving all employees in regular cybersecurity training and refresher sessions. In addition to making it technical, make it relevant to their daily activities so that they not only understand the threat, but how it is affecting their work and the lives of patients.
There should also be clear standards for the use of devices. Currently, there is a tendency for institutions to adopt bring-your-own-device policies. That is understandable, because – apart from special telematics or IT equipment – these devices are similar to those that are used professionally. However, external devices can have additional vulnerabilities, even if they are just personal smartphones. Use vigilance here and communicate acceptable standards.
Patient information is critical to operations and a valuable resource, which makes it all the more attractive to cyber criminals. Therefore, you need to focus on implementing best practices in data collection, using the software platform, and how people interact with the technology. With small, regular efforts, you can minimize the risk of a security breach.
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