Cybersecurity for Patient Safety

Updated on June 11, 2024

Patient safety is a key topic in healthcare. Some of these safety practices include safeguards for patients receiving the correct treatments and medications, procedures to ensure patients are safe in their environment, and processes for providers to follow for properly communicating patient information. Most people might not consider cybersafety when thinking about patient safety, but it is an essential component to keeping patients and their data safe. 

Protected by law, a patient’s medical record is filled with sensitive information including medical diagnoses, provider documentation, and financial information. Healthcare information is particularly attractive to bad actors on the hunt for highly sensitive medical data and Protected Personally Identifiable Information (Protected PII) information. For cybercriminals, stealing patient data is the big win – one record can elicit up to $250 on the Dark Web, approximately 50x more than the next best stolen data, credit and debit card numbers. The ransom demand is also higher at $4.5M on average because the adversaries know that patient lives are at stake.

Healthcare systems have a responsibility to provide reliable security to patients to protect against fraud, eliminate security breaches, and allow patients the peace of mind in knowing appointments with their providers are secure. Medical diagnoses and provider documentation must be kept safe from those who seek to obtain sensitive information illegally. Insurance fraud and financial identity theft could lead to patients being unable to obtain the medical care they need and financial loss. 

Big Consequences 

If a healthcare system doesn’t take the proper steps to ensure patient’s records are safe, the fallout for patients could be catastrophic. For example:

  • IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021 revealed that, “healthcare organizations experienced the highest average cost of a data breach, for the eleventh year in a row” and that those costs have risen 29.5 percent from 2020 to an average of $9.23 million USD.
  • In October 2021,an alleged attack by the Conti ransomware group, described as “the worst in Canadian history,” forced the Newfoundland and Labrador healthcare system to cancel thousands of appointments and procedures.The same gang of cybercriminals has targeted approximately 290 healthcare organizations in the U.S since mid-May 2021. 
  • West Virginia-based Mon Health reported a breach during the same time period to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights saying that 398,164 people had been affected.  

Security Solutions

Utilizing systems such as Autonomous Management Framework (AMF) and self-defending networks, allows organizations to provide the protection their patients need and simplify security processes. 

Managing network infrastructure is time-intensive, costly and has traditionally required expensive, third-party applications to effectively manage larger networks. Cloud computing and converged infrastructures deliver a great deal of business value to the enterprise, but they also add complexity. An AMF provides a converged infrastructure that can be managed as a single entity.

A self-defending network is an integrated security solution that automatically responds to threats without manual intervention. It can identify, prevent, and adapt to threats from both internal and external sources. Most threat protection solutions are only capable of blocking suspicious traffic as it passes through the firewall, so only external threats can be detected and blocked. However, a self defending network can isolate traffic anywhere in the network, such as those introduced inadvertently by staff with USB sticks.

These systems work with the existing firewall to provide the highest level of protection possible. Not only do these systems provide the necessary security, but they also support the IT departments in healthcare facilities that manage network coverage.

Educating employees is another way companies can protect their patients. Most security breaches come from inside a company’s network. Not that employees hold all of the responsibility for allowing potential vulnerability in a system’s network, but they must be educated on the topic. Proper use of personal devices at work includes communication with other providers, but does not include utilizing social media platforms that provide opportunities for cyber vulnerability.

Patient satisfaction

Another hot topic in healthcare is patient satisfaction. Medical compliance from patients as well as reimbursement from Medicaid and private insurance rely heavily on patient satisfaction scores. Although important, quality of care isn’t the only contributing factor for patient satisfaction. The overall quality of a patient’s stay in a healthcare facility contributes to their level of satisfaction. If a patient is provided with a secure network for telehealth visits and is guaranteed security for their financial and medical records, this goes a long way in showing the overall quality of service a healthcare system provides.

The recent surge in telehealth medicine has put a spotlight on the importance of cybersecurity. A patient needs to have a high level of comfort with their provider and believe their information will remain private in order for telehealth medicine to prove effective. If a patient feels their privacy is in jeopardy, they will be less likely to thoroughly discuss their health concerns and comply with attending virtual visits.

What can providers do?

Healthcare providers must utilize products that guarantee the most reliable security for their patients. By partnering with respected companies, healthcare organizations can provide a guarantee to their patients that they are taking their cyber safety seriously. The reliance on technology in healthcare is a continuing trend that will only continue to expand with time. As the growth of online services continues, healthcare providers must keep informed of updates and trends in cybersecurity to ensure their patients are receiving the most up-to-date products and security available.

Giovanni Prinetti
Giovanni Prinetti
Solutions Marketing Manager at Allied Telesis

Giovanni Prinetti is Solutions Marketing Manager for Allied Telesis.