The possibility of having data breaches in healthcare organizations is now on the rise because almost all providers are using EHR systems. Hackers are also motivated by the fact that protected health information is a highly-priced commodity on the dark web.
Also, as interoperability expands and third-party apps are being developed to access data directly from EHRs, the number of vulnerabilities is on the rise. Data security concerns make both providers and patients hesitant to share or receive health data through interoperability.
So, how can providers protect their network and patient data from both internal and external cyberattacks?
Here are some tips that will help boost health IT security in a healthcare organization.
1. Carry Out a HIPAA Security Audit Annually
Conducting a periodic risk assessment is part of the requirements of the popular HIPAA Security Rule. You need to plan for it and ensure that you set aside a budget and time to do it. It helps to re-evaluate your system’s vulnerabilities considering the deployment of new systems, upgrades to IT infrastructure and employee turnover that takes place almost every year. However, after your security risk analysis, you need to take the steps necessary to mitigate any risks identified during the process.
2. Use Data Encryption
Make a policy to have data on all portable devices encrypted. You need to encrypt data on tablets, smartphones and laptops. Many of these devices get lost or stolen. And if the data on them is not encrypted, all the health records they contain could get into the wrong hands.
While there may be some hindrances and employee resistance to encryption, it’s better to endure the inconvenience than to pay huge fines for allowing patient data to get into the hands of hackers. The cost of hiring an attorney, performing forensics and a damaged reputation can be astronomical.
3. Train and Re-train Employees
It’s essential to motivate and train all employees in the organization to be security conscious. As risks change in the dynamic field of information technology, you must keep your staff in the know. Develop a strict breach-prevention culture. Treat IT security as a chronic disease like cancer that requires frequent treatment, testing and evaluation. The goal must be to make everyone aware of the risks and keep them informed about any new security threats.
4. Ensure That Data Is Only Accessed on Secure Devices
A lot of data security issues occur when health IT infrastructure is upgraded from legacy systems. Some of the old systems may have older operating systems that aren’t supported anymore. Some old medical devices connected to EHRs weren’t designed to connect to the web. This can easily create security vulnerabilities because it takes just one unsecured device or access point on the network for protected health information (PHI) to be compromised. Hence, it’s essential to use a secure and updated infrastructure to prevent or detect potential data breaches.
While it’s important to promote interoperability and data sharing for improved patient care, it must be done in a secure way. The right physical measures, procedures and policies must be in place to protect all electronic information systems.
To learn more about how to detect and deal with data security risks, contact HEF Solutions today.