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Mitigating Privacy and Cybersecurity Risks in Healthcare

Cybercriminals are selling medical records for up to $1,000 per record, and the fight to repair the damage has become an uphill battle.

Over 1,000 data breach cases were reported in the United States alone last year. In the same year, data exposures affected over 155.7 million people.

In the previous year, federal records reported 500 or more hospital and medical records that were compromised.

Not only do data breaches compromise patient privacy, but they also reduce a medical organization’s ability to provide high-quality care.

By mitigating disruptions that can wreak havoc on clinical outcomes, medical organizations can restore trust with patients and provide the best care.

Let’s review three key things you can start doing right away to reduce cybersecurity risks at your healthcare organization.

Conduct a Cybersecurity Health Check-Up

Hiring a cybersecurity expert to conduct a cybersecurity assessment is the first step health organizations must take to protect themselves.

A third-party security assessment identifies potential problems and weak points in networks. It also aids in planning effective security strategies going forward.

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A cybersecurity expert will refer to the Cybersecurity Framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to make sure all cybersecurity measures are up to par.

When hiring a cybersecurity expert, have your questions prepared in advance. Ask them what you can expect the assessment to look like, how your organization can best support cybersecurity strategies, and if they offer any training.

If they offer training, be sure to schedule several training slots, so all staff members have the opportunity to join in.

Take Data Storage Seriously

With most customer data in the cloud being stored in colocation data centers today, it’s critical to find a provider that has a good security track record. When you’re dealing with sensitive data like patient information, only the best data center will do.

When choosing a data center, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Serviceability: Make sure your data center provider can help from afar. When equipment needs to be touched manually, it increases costs and takes longer to solve a security problem.
  2. Flexibility: Find a provider that offers plenty of power, space, and on-demand availability, so workloads won’t be affected as your organization grows.
  3. Term agreements: Try not to get locked into any long-term contracts that can prevent your organization from re-negotiating prices when rates fall.
  4. User Experience: Make sure your provider’s security service-level agreement matches the network bandwidth and redundancy of the core services you need.
  5. Transparency: Choose an honest, transparent provider that offers some degree of self-management and self-monitoring.

Choose the Best Software and Train Employees on Data Security

The right software and employee training is essential to ensuring compliance with security practices.

With most non-essential and administrative staff working from home over the past year, most workflows are in the cloud. This means it’s essential that all software programs are secure and that employees properly train on keeping data secure.

Nelson Sherwin, Manager of PEO Companies says:

“The worst situation we had was when an employee opened a spam email and downloaded the attachment. It was malware, of course, and it infected our entire system. We had no idea how many files were compromised, or how bad the situation was, and we had to do weeks of work to make sure everything was secure and to determine what information may have been accessed by third parties, stolen, corrupted, etc. It was a nightmare.

“We did learn an extremely important lesson, and that is the importance of cybersecurity training. Most breaches happen because of employee negligence, but when cybersecurity training is lacking, I place more of the blame on us than I do on the employee. We learned quickly to upgrade all our security systems and software and go into emergency, thorough cybersecurity training for employees at all levels.”

When planning your training schedule, don’t cut corners. It’s normal to feel pressured to complete training as soon as possible so medical staff can resume work activities. But training your staff well is crucial to them consistently implementing the training they receive.

It’s also important to ensure that staff has plenty of hands-on opportunities to learn exactly how to mitigate privacy and cybersecurity risks. Give staff plenty of time to ask questions, voice concerns, and even offer possible ideas your organization may not have thought of.

Wrap up

With more than 1,000 data breaches occurring in the United States alone, medical organizations can’t afford to overlook cybersecurity.

By conducting a cybersecurity check-up, taking data storage seriously, and training employees well, your medical organization will have the tools it needs to protect patient data and other pertinent information.

About the author

Katie Brownley

Health & IT Journalist covering Cybersecurity News, Data Breaches and Security Industry News. Email is open for DM and News Tips are Welcome

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