For leaders of healthcare facilities and health provider organizations, keeping patient data safe and secure is more important than ever before. And with a variety of new laws and regulations across the United States, it’s also become more complex than ever. With that in mind, here are a few strategies for improving cybersecurity in healthcare that every leader should know.
3 Key Strategies to Improve Cybersecurity in Healthcare
Why is cybersecurity in healthcare so important? Attacks on hospitals health systems have risen sharply in recent years, with more data breaches reported each year. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data shows that “more than 1 million people were affected by data breaches at health-care organizations” almost every month in 2020.
What’s behind this escalation? Besides the immediate incentive of seizing profitable patient data, new motives like stealing vaccine-related data have emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic. And, as the pandemic causes more remote work and use of telehealth, vulnerabilities also increase — and so do opportunities for hackers.
All of this exposes healthcare organizations to a number of risks, including blackmail from criminals and lawsuits from affected patients. In some states, regulatory fines may also be imposed, such as those outlined by California’s recent data security laws. On top of all this, an effective cyberattack can also shut down an organization’s digital systems and infrastructure at a time when many can least afford it.
With the urgency and importance of this issue in mind, then, here are three strategies to bolster cybersecurity in healthcare organizations that leaders can implement right away.
Implement a System Check and Update, Stat
Over the past few decades, many leaders have been focused on data security in context of electronic medical records. With the introduction of HIPAA in 1996, this is an understandable priority. But now, as hackers increasingly target health systems, that focus needs to shift to the security of data in the cloud, as Orion Health Chief Information Security Officer Marnie Wilking wrote in Becker’s Hospital Review.
According to IT security firm Netwrix, 84% of private healthcare organizations stored data in the cloud as recently in 2018. And that number has only increased as society continues to shift to digital commerce and communications. Hackers have not been reluctant to take advantage of this shift. According to HealthcareITNews, more than 40 million patient health records were compromised during 2021.
Protecting that cloud-based patient data should be job #1. The first step is a review of the infrastructure and systems used to store data. For leaders without their own internal IT security team, private cybersecurity professionals and firms are available to consult, advise and lead the way on bolstering cloud security. The cost of this may seem high — but the cost of taking no action is higher still.
Train and Educate Your Staff
The best cybersecurity strategy and infrastructure will still be vulnerable if staff members aren’t trained in its use—or if they use it improperly. Solving this potential problem means ensuring that all systems aren’t just securely encrypted but also restricted to the appropriate personnel. From administrators to techs and nurses, only those professionals who need access to specific data should have such access.
Next, each team member needs to understand the importance of proper use, and how they can maintain security. This includes security awareness education training for healthcare workers — administrators and schedulers as well as nurses and clinicians. If this is outside of your wheelhouse, an outside consultant or IT security firm can create and manage this training on your behalf.
Finally, access protocols should be regularly reviewed, and training should be a recurrent event, not just a one-time event. And security training should be extended to all new hires as a regular part of the onboarding process.
Partner with a Trusted MSP or VMS Provider
Beyond engaging the help of an outside security expert, healthcare leaders should review their own processes for managing and storing patient data. This also includes assessing the security of each third-party vendor or partner, no matter how they’re involved.
Partnering with a trusted provider of healthcare vendor management services (VMS) or managed services programs (MSP) can be an effective first step in meeting this strategic need. Companies like CareerStaff Unlimited offer proven, comprehensive MSP and VMS services that are carefully structured and regularly reviewed to ensure security — a key factor in our Joint Commission Certification.
An MSP or VMS partner not only helps give you security assurance but also frees up your staff from managing tasks that may be out of their wheelhouse — or for which they simply don’t have time. In addition, MSP can help relieve you of a great deal of other administrative burdens like scheduling, billing, invoicing, and more.
The net result isn’t just greater security, but also efficiency and cost savings that can extend throughout your entire organization. Especially as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make waves throughout the healthcare industry, this is more important than ever.
CareerStaff is Here to Help
CareerStaff can help get you through the steps you need to take to stay on top of cybersecurity. If you’re interested in learning more about vendor management or managed service solutions from CareerStaff Unlimited, we’re standing by to provide further info or answer any questions you may have.