The importance of data security in healthcare cannot be stressed enough: Sensitive patient data is a lucrative target for hackers and other bad actors. Health information is confidential and HIPAA regulations require cybersecurity. Yet, the healthcare industry frequently siloes cybersecurity duties to IT. Instead, healthcare security is everyone’s job.
Whether you’re a doctor, nurse, secretary, or anyone else working in the medical space, you must pay attention to health data security. Hackers have more entry points than ever thanks to smart devices. From there, they can compromise systems through your Wi-Fi network.
Most cyberattacks are for financial gain, but some are more malicious. Stolen patient data lets criminals buy drugs with someone else’s prescription, visit someone else’s doctor, or submit false insurance claims.
The FBI is also increasingly concerned about criminals attacking electronic medical devices to compromise patient care. Therefore, healthcare cybersecurity protects more than data—it’s about patient safety.
Clearly, you need a robust healthcare security plan that involves everyone at your facility. This article will examine 9 ways to boost your healthcare data security standards.
1. Go Beyond HIPAA Compliance
Most medical professionals know that healthcare information disclosure must follow HIPAA compliance. HIPAA also protects patients’ health data and improves health insurance portability. For data security, there are two rules that healthcare organizations must keep in mind.
- HIPAA Privacy Rule: These are federally mandated guidelines that highlight the permissible uses of protected health information (PHI). It sets standards about when and why it’s appropriate to disclose health information without the patient’s consent.
- HIPAA Security Rule: As mentioned, the HIPAA security rule specifies that electronic health records (EHR) must be protected from data breaches. It lists the required administrative, technical, and physical safeguards you need to protect patients.
Following these rules is crucial. However, your healthcare security plan should exceed HIPAA’s requirements. Think of HIPAA as your data privacy foundation. Start there, but build more cybersecurity measures onto it for optimal protection.
2. Educate Staff
Remember, data security in healthcare is everyone’s business, not just IT’s. According to IBM, human error causes 19 in 20 breaches. Usually, this error wasn’t from someone on the IT team. It was someone in another department without cyber education.
Teach everyone who works at your healthcare facility best practices. Right down to the part-time clerks at your gift shop. A breach that started in the gift shop could affect your whole facility.
Be aware that cybersecurity involves more than computers. Telehealth security breaches can compromise sensitive data. Your healthcare security officer must know how to spot malicious actors trying to gain physical entry.
3. Encrypt Everything
Encryption encodes data while it’s in transmission. If a hacker tries to steal information during transfer, they’ll see random data. HIPAA strongly recommends but doesn’t require data encryption.
Yet, cybersecurity experts recommend data encryption for all businesses. Additionally, while HIPAA may not require encryption, it may be necessary to adequately satisfy their security rule. Either way, it’s a good extra layer of security for every medical record.
4. Secure Mobile Devices
Most staff members and patients carry mobile devices. Furthermore, professionals increasingly use mobile devices for work. Many physicians use one to access medical records and make last-minute calls while on the move. Unfortunately, mobile devices are easy targets for hackers.
Set rules about staff mobile device usage. Enforce strong passwords and enable each device’s ability to remotely wipe data. You can’t enforce usage policies with patients or visitors, but you can limit their ability to connect to your network.
5. Back-up Data Offsite
Do everything you can to prevent it, but also be prepared to mitigate damage in a healthcare data breach. One way you can minimize data loss is with data back-ups in a secure, offsite location.
If your onsite network is compromised, you’ll still have original copies of the data somewhere else. You can cross-reference your records to detect tampering and preserve accurate information if there’s data loss.
19 out of 20 Data Breaches Are Caused by Team Members
6. Use a Firewall
Unless your EHR system is completely disconnected from the internet, you must protect it with a firewall. Firewalls are common and many computers come with one pre-installed. However, for high-stakes data like medical records, you should use a more powerful firewall.
Business-grade firewalls offer more protection than pre-installed ones. You can buy a software program or hardware device to upgrade. This creates a barrier between your system and the internet and segments local networks.
7. Restrict Access to Electronic Health Records
Patient records should be restricted to authorized personnel. However, you must implement access controls to ensure only they can enter your system. This includes usernames and strong passwords, but it’s not limited to that.
Most EHR systems let you configure file access settings. This means that you can restrict file access to certain usernames or roles. Also, implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to decrease the chances of unauthorized personnel accessing data with stolen credentials.
Credit: MATT PRODUCTION
8. Protect Medical Devices
As mentioned, compromised healthcare devices are a growing concern. Any IoT (internet of things) device is at risk from cyberattacks. This may include blood pressure or heart rate monitors, and glucose tests.
Practice good cybersecurity habits and take additional measures to ensure patient safety. Try keeping all IoT medical devices on a separate network. This prevents hackers from accessing medical equipment if they’re in your primary network.
Disable IoT devices when not in use and limit non-essential services on them. This decreases the device’s potential entry points.
9. Consult Healthcare Cybersecurity Experts
Many organizations consult managed cybersecurity services for help, healthcare is no different. Seek a managed service provider that knows healthcare to get the best cybersecurity advice for your facility.
At ISOwire, we provide complete end-to-end IT services that keep your practice safe from hackers. We can back up your data on HIPAA-compliant cloud software and offer expert advice on how you can protect your patients from breaches.
Contact us to learn more or request a quote.
Featured Image Credit: National Cancer Institute