6 Ways Healthcare Centers Can Prevent Data Breaches | Alycia Gordan | RxEconsult

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6 Ways Healthcare Centers Can Prevent Data Breaches Category: Health IT by - May 9, 2017 | Views: 21062 | Likes: 0 | Comment: 0  


In the age where news about data breach is making headlines every month, businesses consider their data to be at great risk. The healthcare industry is also vulnerable to this new wave of terrorism, where a lot is at stake.

Ponemon Institute reports that criminal attacks in healthcare centers have increased by 125 percent since 2010, and are now the leading cause behind data breaches in the US.

The situation can only be controlled by implementing tight security measures around your organization’s data. Once you have countermeasures or backups ready to save your precious data from falling into the hands of cyber criminals, you will then be able to put your worries aside.

However, not all medical data breaches are caused by cyber criminals, some of them occur when an employee forgets to log out of his PC when leaving work and so on. Therefore, here are some ways to protect medical data.

Improving the monitoring process

In May, the Medical Colleagues of Texas, an 11-physician practice in Texas experienced a breach, exposing 50,000 patient records.

The information which is secured in a healthcare center is very important to both patients and their doctors. This information is also given to pharmaceutical companies and other related departments upon request. This means that the chances of a breach are higher at these ends. A solid monitoring system can help prevent the misuse of this information.

The biometric authentication process is a good way to ensure that a relevant person has control over their data. Fingerprints, retinal and voice scanners can help detect the correct person with whom a piece of information can be shared.

An organization is unable to prevent every breach attempt. A thorough disaster recovery plan, therefore, is the best way to secure your organization’s data and systems. Disaster recovery plans can help predict cyber threats and devices strategies to counter them. A vigilant IT service provider can help your organization choose the best plan to secure your data and back it up.

Safeguarding access points

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid nearly $17,000 in ransom to re-obtain access to its computer systems after a ransomware attack. 

Hackers look for access points that can let them into a system. One of the most sophisticated technologies in healthcare systems uses encryption to ensure all data is exchanged safely and according to set standards. These platforms also report any existing threats to access points in a network.

When patients’ data is backed up, authorities are less vulnerable to ransomware demands. Systems and providers can also implement end-to-end encryption to secure data 24/7 on all devices. Some platforms also prevent con-compliant apps from accessing patient records to secure data at all costs.

Educating the staff

Your staff should be educated enough to understand the threats that can cause damage to the system. Data breaches can be easy in organizations where employees are lenient about the usage of work-related. In fact, an employee is usually the easiest way to access a system. Whether due to negligence or ill intent, employees can help hackers get into the network.

Medical records are extremely valuable to thieves, who are willing to go to any length to carry out their malicious plans. This data is sold for an average of $363 per record, and this figure is even higher for credit card data. This, unfortunately, can compromise the life of a patient. Credit cards can be canceled, but the personal record of a patient can be used to cause irreparable damage.

Using secure networks

Wireless routers are a must in every organization. Wireless networks make it easy to work and access information from anywhere in the building. Unfortunately, these wireless networks can give way to miscreants and cause a lot of damage to the IT infrastructure.

If your healthcare center still uses the outdated Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security standard, data can be accessed from it even via logging in from the parking lot. Stealing data, therefore, becomes very easy.  

The best way to secure your wireless network is by updating the routers. Additionally, your network passwords should be changed frequently too and routers and other components must be checked, at least once a week.

Secure network access should only be shared with people who work within the organization and not with any outsider, at any cost. Some organizations have made this possible by having a different network for visitors or other vendors in specific areas within the building.

Implementing physical security

Electronic health records might have taken over the traditional record-keeping in healthcare systems, but organizations still keep sensitive data on paper. To ensure the security of this data, service providers and the organization must implement physical security as well.

Files, cabinets, and doors should be locked and accessed only by the authorized personnel. Also, camera and other monitoring systems should be installed around these storage areas. Meraki Vision security camera system is a good option that monitors your location without putting a lot of pressure on bandwidth.

If IT equipment is stored within the organization, it should also be locked in a facility. Server rooms are the most sensitive areas, and they should be highly secured. Cable locks and other devices can be used to secure laptops and other devices around the facility.

Physical security is a must when data is present on the premises. Hospitals are just as prone to a data breach as any other institution. The American Action Forum estimated that medical breaches have cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $50 billion since 2009.

The number of records compromised in a data breach will continue to rise if effective security measures are not taken to protect on-premise records.

Implementing mobile device policies

Mobile devices are now a significant part of our lives. We like to carry our mobile devices everywhere with us. The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cell phone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77% in 2016, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.

Individuals employed in healthcare centers also carry their devices freely around the institution and are allowed to access sensitive information through them. For all the employees using their mobile devices in offices, there has to be a strict mobile policy. Doing this is important for healthcare institutions because these devices can also be used as an access point to steal confidential data. The BYOD (bring your own device) system is only going to work if there are laws governing this change.

According to a recent survey by HIMS, almost 70 percent of clinicians now use a mobile device to view patient information, and 36 per cent use one to collect bedside data. The departments that want to control what apps should be installed in these devices or what kind of data can be stored on these devices can get the services of mobile device management (MDM) agencies.

The three critical components of healthcare IT are:

  • Availability of systems and patient records
  • Protecting patient privacy
  • HIPAA compliance

The health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States requires healthcare centers to periodically assess their policies and procedures which govern access to sensitive data. Under the act, employees and management are accountable for their actions and obliged to report any minor or major activity which can cause a data breach in the organization.

Healthcare is a sensitive industry to work in, and, being employed in it, you have increased responsibility regarding patients and their sensitive information. Luckily, it is easier to identify any suspicious activity when all your systems are monitored and secured on a regular basis. 

About The Author

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer. She loves to read and write article related to health and lifestyle, sometime on health-tech as well. She is crazy about chocolates and you can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia

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