In the Information Age, the most valuable commodity we own is our
personal data. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, we
often have to upload that data onto the internet, leaving it
vulnerable to cybercriminals. Even with sophisticated cybersecurity
tools, data breaches happen.
By necessity, the healthcare sector collects a lot of personal and
sensitive data. People are understandably concerned about their
privacy, but doctors also need to be able to easily access their
patients’ health information and history when necessary to diagnose
and provide treatment. Digital health records and data analysis have
the ability to significantly improve healthcare outcomes, but they
also raise some security concerns that the industry is grappling with.
Data breaches are extremely common in healthcare because insurers,
hospitals, and similar organizations have data that hackers want.
Patient data is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), but now that most healthcare
organizations are using electronic health records (EHR), how can they
protect their patients’ personal data?
Quick Overview of HIPAA Security
HIPPA was implemented in 1996 when the internet was in its infancy.
Today, however, there are security standards that healthcare
organizations must follow to protect their patients’ personal data.
The HIPAA Security Rule was developed to allow organizations to
leverage new technology and embrace innovation while protecting
digital data privacy.
Any entity that transmits and stores health data electronically must
abide by HIPAA regulations. Data that is covered under the HIPPA
Privacy rule is health information that can be associated with a
specific person. This is known as protected health information (PHI)
and provides privacy for individuals while allowing health research to continue.
Security Rule does not include all applicable data security
requirements, but it does provide a summary of steps that should be
taken to protect data that is collected and stored. Essentially, the
Security Rule requires organizations to take reasonable precautions to
protect the integrity and confidentiality of personal data and ensure
compliance within their workforce. These precautions include risk
management assessments, physical and technical safeguards, staff
training, and periodic security reviews.
Prioritizing Cybersecurity to Keep Patient Data Secure
Compliance with HIPAA is important from both a legal and ethical
standpoint. But meeting HIPPA’s basic requirements should be just a
starting point for organizations that store and send large amounts of
patient data. Organizations need to prioritize cybersecurity and
prevent breaches to keep patient data secure.
confidentiality is a cornerstone of effective healthcare. Patients
need to trust that their personal information will not be revealed to
unauthorized parties. Once a hacker has stolen that information, they
can do anything they want with it. That’s why it’s so important for
healthcare organizations to make cybersecurity and breach response a priority.
Potential Cyber Attacks to Look Out For
Cybercriminals have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years.
Security experts are always working to be one step ahead of the
hackers, but there are some weaknesses that cybercriminals can
exploit, namely human error and judgment. There are many different
tactics and types
of cyberattacks hackers can use to get the data they seek.
Some of the most common tactics include:
- Malware—installs unauthorized software on a computer after a
link/attachment is clicked
- Spyware—“spies” on the hard drive, typically installed from
- Ransomware—data is “held hostage” by locking the system until a
ransom is paid
- Phishing—malicious communications pretending to be legitimate in
order to steal data or install malware
There are many other tactics and types of attacks hackers can use.
Many of these can be neutralized with up-to-date cybersecurity
protocols, but training is also important as personnel is generally
the weakest link. Creating strong passwords and changing them
frequently, warning employees not to click on suspicious links,
two-factor authentication, and other common-sense measures can help to
improve organizational security.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Tips to Enforce Right Now
Creating a culture
of security is key in the healthcare industry. Employees need to
understand how important protecting patient data is, from both a legal
and ethical standpoint. Ongoing training, clear policies for
protecting data and responding to breaches, and common sense protocols
will all help establish a strong security culture.
Beyond this, it’s important to control and restrict access to PHI
only to people who have a demonstrated need to access the data.
Encryption, firewalls, and anti-virus measure are also key. Protecting
mobile devices and physical access are often overlooked security
measures that are vitally important.
Cybersecurity is an ongoing challenge for healthcare organizations of
all sizes. It’s not always possible to prevent a breach, but doing
what you can to anticipate and mitigate cyberattacks goes a long way
toward ensuring that your patients’ PHI is as safe as possible.