Do you have proper data security measures in place to protect your patients’ information?
The security of healthcare data is a hot button issue, especially with the healthcare industry experiencing such huge changes due to politics and economics. But if there’s one constant in healthcare it’s that practitioners must do all they can to safeguard their clients’ information.
Across the breadth of technology, more and more information is being stored electronically. This includes sensitive healthcare records, which has created increased concerns about privacy and data breaches – even after policies such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) were signed into law.
Health records are so valuable because they can be used for insurance fraud, identity theft, and prescription theft. Additionally, credit card information can also be obtained if providers store this information.
In order to ease concerns about healthcare data breaches, practitioners must now cope with ordinances Congress has enacted to make the requirements for medical data-security even tighter. Non-compliance penalties are included in these heightened security measures, making the cost of leaving your data unsecured even higher.
So, the question for practitioners now is not whether you can afford to implement data security, but if you can afford not to.
Healthcare Data Breach Statistics
As those of us the tech industry know, data breaches are a disturbingly common thing in the healthcare industry. In fact, according the 2016 Sixth Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data, 90 percent of healthcare organizations have experienced a breach in the last two years. The average cost of the breach totaled a whopping $2.2 million per hack. As a whole, data breaches have cost the healthcare industry an estimated $6.2 billion…that’s BILLION, with a “B.”
Data breaches are real problem in the healthcare industry – and they’re only getting worse. CIO predicts that healthcare organizations will be the most targeted sector in 2017, with new and sophisticated attacks emerging. Moreover, there’s evidence that the frequency of hackings is only likely to increase in the coming years in part due to how valuable health records are to cybercriminals.
In other words: If you don’t already have a plan to prevent data breaches, now’s the time.
4 Healthcare Data Security Tips from Top Atlanta IT Consultants
Fortunately, there are many strategies for safeguarding your healthcare data. Here are four of the best tips we’ve discovered while partnering with organizations in the healthcare industry:
1. Develop a regular data security analysis.
If conducted correctly, a yearly HIPAA analysis will act as an annual exam for the health your data security. You should already have some sort of scheduled analysis in place (per the HIPAA Security Rule requirement). However, we recommend making this analysis more frequent considering the number of changes your system is likely to face in the course of a year (IT infrastructure adjustments, employee turnover, new systems, restructuring across your organization, etc.).
In the course of a year, there can be gaps where your system becomes periodically vulnerable. You can’t truly discern how much your data is at risk without going through the process of identifying where your vulnerabilities are and coming up with a plan to keep your data safe.
2. Strive to encrypt your data…all of it.
Data encryption should be at the forefront of your security plan. Regardless of this truth, roughly a third of major documented breaches have occurred due to portable devices (i.e. laptops and smartphones) being left unencrypted. These occurrences have led to half of all health records being impacted.
In the effort to encrypt all of your data, there are certainly hurdles to cross: budget constraints, clumsy tech, difficulty in training, and over-complexity. Trust me, I get it. However, it’s necessary to put forth the effort to complete the encryption or else you risk much worse.
3. Increase your frequency of assessments and testing.
If hackers gain access to medical data, it can be detrimental for your organization and your patients. Luckily, there has not been a widespread breach…yet. This, however, doesn’t mean that the industry should become complacent. Even a smaller breach, like the 12th largest (involving the Utah Department of Health) in 2012, involved 780,000 records.
In order to safeguard healthcare data, you should do periodic (monthly or quarterly works well) vulnerability checks and remediation. It’s also advisable to have an outside company do additional security audits every once in a while.
4. Think of security as an investment.
Failing to have adequate security in place for your healthcare data is possibly the biggest risk your organization can face. Sure, it can be costly to train and plan for data breaches; however, every dollar you spend on healthcare security is an investment towards your ongoing success.
I can’t say it enough: Keeping sensitive patient information safe and secure is vitally important because of the implications possible from hackers gaining confidential information. If you’re in the healthcare industry and concerned about the security of your data, consider hiring an IT consulting firm to help. It’ll be the best investment you’ve made all year.
Leave a comment below or drop me line if you have questions about your organization’s data security. I’m happy to help.