Healthcare Data Security: How to Ensure Your Private Data Isn’t Compromised

solaradmin | August 14th, 2020

Did you know that 93% of healthcare organizations had a data breach between 2016 and 2019? Of these facilities, 57% had over five healthcare security breaches during this time. Black Book Market Research goes on to report that healthcare cyberattacks cost $4 billion during 2019.

Black Book surveyed 2,876 security specialists from 733 healthcare facilities. The study asked them to describe gaps, vulnerabilities, and deficits in their cybersecurity defense. About 96% of the respondents stated that the threats are outpacing their protection strategies.

This report named healthcare providers as the most targeted entity in the healthcare industry. External attackers were successful 53% of the time.

So what steps can you take to protect your practice or healthcare data security? Continue reading to find strategies for increasing your protection.

Importance of Data Privacy in Healthcare

Data privacy is a paramount concern for all industries today. Since 300 B.C., patient privacy has been a cornerstone of healthcare. The Greek physician, Hippocrates, said in his Law, “Things that are holy are revealed only to men who are holy.”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) formalized this tenant in 1996. For the first time, healthcare systems became legally accountable for protecting personal data. Disclosure of sensitive patient health information requires consent from the patient.

Patient data privacy is of the utmost importance. It impacts the trust between patients and their providers/healthcare facilities. Individuals must also have access to their own personal health data.

Personal health data also needs protection from commercial entities. Today, many companies wish to use this information to promote business interests. The protection of personal health information is a basic human right.

Healthcare Data Security Risks

Electronic healthcare records have created more efficient methods for storing and sharing patient data. Yet it contains the potential for increased security threats. These risks may occur due to human error or intentional cybersecurity breaches.

The development of new electronic devices has also brought new privacy risks. Examples of security challenges include the following.

Cloud Security

The volume of data storage requirements is growing exponentially each year. Thus, many institutions have begun using “cloud storage” to manage this demand. This allows the transmission of data to a remote storage system.

The data is most often sent to the cloud via the internet. The cloud provides maintenance, management, and a back-up of all data.

This provides an excellent storage solution. Yet, it can also increase security and compliance risks.

The primary risk with cloud storage is that thieves don’t need to physically enter a building. Thus, security models must track all traffic and flow of data to and from the cloud. The burden is now greater for the security team than for the would-be attackers.

Unsecured Mobile Devices

Today, most everyone stays connected all the time. Healthcare agencies allow providers to access patient data from remote sites using different devices. Without controls, this opens great holes in the security system.

Ransomware

Ransomware describes a malicious software attack. It blocks an individual or company from accessing their computer system.

The attacker demands a specific sum of money to return access to the computer system. This is often accomplished via phishing or other user-based means that give access to network connections.

Healthcare information has a high value on the black market. It gives these thieves access to detailed personal data.

IoT Exploits

A Russian hacker group is now using common Internet of Things (IoT) devices to gain access to corporate networks. Various internet-connected devices are exploited by these groups.

Examples include voice-over-IP phones, Wi-Fi office printers, and video decoders. Even wearable and implanted devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps are vulnerable.

Now that healthcare systems use many internet-connected systems on a daily basis, they’re at increased risk. The number and types of devices using IoT creates a huge challenge for IT security

People

Employees pose one of the greatest threats by not adhering to security protocols. It only takes one person errantly providing access to compromise the whole system.

How to Protect Patient Health Information

Healthcare systems must now focus on all data storage, transmission, and use strategies. Policies and procedures should reflect the facility’s specific security directive. This includes plans for training, implementing, and monitoring security protocols.

It’s paramount that security policies mandate the use of effective protection on all remote access devices. All devices must only have access via logins with extra authentication capabilities.

Malware software should be installed and current on all systems. Limit access to only personnel with a “need to know” status.

Training should include any employee who accesses protected health information. Include information about situations that require written patient authorization.

Stress that employees should never share passwords or allow anyone to work under their login. Include a plan for check-ins and follow-up education to ensure compliance.

All computer systems must have firewalls and a routine back-up procedure. Encrypt all mobile devices that interface with the network. Keep all antivirus, and antimalware software current.

Some institutions may wish to contract with healthcare security services to manage this task. One company enhances IT security through medical records task optimization. They specifically focus on:

  • Standardizing indexing
  • Centralizing and automating indexing decisions
  • Automated abstraction processes for outside documents and lab results
  • Automatically identifying missing and misfiled documents

Each of these strategies decreases the risk of errors.

Finding the Right Solution

Cybersecurity and IT professionals work tirelessly to keep up with the ever-evolving healthcare data security threats. We can contribute to your organization’s security efforts.

We provide a medical record indexing solution that increases efficiency and decreases costs. Healthcare provides have quicker access to the information they need. Record filing and storage optimization decrease the risk of misplaced or lost information.

Schedule a demonstration today to see how we can improve your data security.