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How to Ensure Healthcare Data is Safe in Your Practice

Guest Author
October 5, 2022
Min Read

Whether you are running a small practice or managing a large hospital, your patients’ data is exposed to certain risks. While keeping digital healthcare records streamlines document management, it’s also a magnet for cybercriminals. In 2021, the financial loss due to a healthcare data breach was $9.23 million, which is more than double of the average financial loss across all other verticals. 

While your primary focus is delivering quality patient care, you should also ensure their sensitive information is safe. Here are a few ways to improve healthcare data security in your practice without stretching your staff and resources too thin.

Educate Your Staff on Data Security Essentials

Medical practitioners must continuously improve their skills and knowledge, leaving little time to focus on other areas. That’s why low cybersecurity awareness is common among medical staff across organizations. 

You can efficiently improve awareness and provide training. Educating your staff on data security essentials, common threats, and how to minimize cybersecurity risks can help a lot. However, given that new cybersecurity threats emerge regularly, your security training should not be a one-time thing. 

Keeping healthcare data safe is a long-term effort. The related training should be ongoing to help keep staff in the loop regarding the latest cybersecurity threats.

healthcare cybersecurity and training: what you need to know blog post

Limit Access Rights to Essential Personnel

Many data breaches are the result of poor access control. Healthcare organizations often have to allow access to sensitive data to more than one person, sometimes even to an entire department. The most common error is making the data accessible to everyone when trying to facilitate collaboration.

Healthcare organizations should implement permission systems to minimize data leaks and make the data safe. It will give you complete control over your data and who can access it to read, modify, or download.

With proper access control, you can facilitate collaboration without exposing your sensitive data to risks.

Encrypt Data

Healthcare organizations often have to keep data shared around the clock, and across departments. While data democratization helps facilitate access to data and collaboration, it exposes that same data to more risks than when it’s safely stored behind a firewall. 

There is an easy way to render your data useless to cybercriminals, even if they manage to get a hold of it. We are talking about data encryption.

Data encryption scrambles your data and makes it accessible only to people with the key to decrypt it. Doing so will keep your data safe, and show your patients that you handle their most sensitive data with care.

With threats from hackers and malware on the rise, data privacy and security are more important than ever. Is there a data protection solution that can help you balance productivity with security? Watch the video below to find out! 

Make Mobile Devices More Secure

Did you know that an average hospital bed in the U.S. has up to 15 devices connected to it? Add to that the mobile devices your staff uses, and you have a potential cybersecurity nightmare on your hands. Spreading the patients’ data across these devices creates significant security risks.

Making mobile devices more secure is paramount. The above-mentioned data encryption can help, but it may not be enough. You should also enable remote device wiping if it gets stolen, and revisit your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy to restrict the use of personal devices on a health organization’s network.

Regularly Back Up Your Data

Unfortunately, we still don’t have access to a solution that can keep data 100% safe against cyber attacks. Such an attack can wipe all your data. You can also suffer data loss due to a natural disaster. To make it safer, you should regularly back it up and keep it safe in off-site cloud storage.

You shouldn’t back up your data when you think it’s ok to do it, though. Instead, you need to come up with a backup policy. A backup policy is a set of rules and procedures that outlines your strategy when backing up your data.

When creating your data backup strategy, you need to define who will do it, which apps will be used, when the data will be stored, and how frequently you will do it.

what happens when a health facility experiences a data security breach blog post

Evaluate the Compliance of Your Tech Stack

Not all apps in your technology stack have the same compliance. Plus, regulations change over time, which could impact the compliance of some of your tools. Make sure to evaluate the tech used in your practice on a regular basis to ensure compliance and security. To keep data secure, you need to implement tech governance to some extent.

For instance, you can list the minimal compliance requirements a solution must meet before you add it to your tech stack. Some compliance regulations relevant to the healthcare sector are PCI, HIPAA, and Global Privacy Compliance.

But it should not end there. You should also assess the security and privacy policies of the company that produces the software and hardware to ensure it’s a good match for your organization in terms of data safety.

Related: How to Avoid Common Data Security Challenges

Continuously Improve Security Standards

It appears that every new day brings new threats to your healthcare data. That’s why it’s important to regularly revisit your security standards, address new threats, and keep your data safe.

It’s important to constantly communicate with staff about data privacy standards, new security threats, and common data breach tactics. You should use training to instill an understanding of the importance of security standards among your staff, and how they can be accountable for data privacy violations. 

With everyone on board, you will be able to create a culture ready to adopt new procedures and maintain a high level of data safety and security.

Ensure Your Healthcare Data is Safe

So far, the trend in the background of digital transformation has been to be reactive. However, healthcare facilities are now seeing the advantages of being more proactive. Instead of devising a crisis management strategy, healthcare organizations are shifting to a proactive approach.

This can help improve your practice’s cyber resilience and help the healthcare industry stop being in the lead with the highest average breach cost for 12 consecutive years.

Want to simplify healthcare workflow management and improve patient satisfaction without sacrificing security? See how Formstack can help.

About the Author

Ben Herberg is an experienced tech leader and book author with a background in endpoint security, analytics, and data security. Ben filled roles such as the CTO of Cynet, and Director of Threat Research at Imperva. Ben is the Chief Scientist for Satori, the DataSecOps platform.

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