What does health care service mean to you? Is it just providing exceptional health care? No. It is much more than that and the most important thing is protection of data and personal information of the patients, as per the law. Therefore, you will also need to focus on the security aspect, especially the cyber security aspect. This is because you will surely have a lot of computers and laptops used to manage and handle such colossal amount of data effectively.
Now you may wonder, what is the need to include the cyber security aspect in your management process and add to the cost? Well, a simple example of an incident that happened with Premier Health care in 2016 will make things clear to you.
This well-known physician group of Bloomington, Indiana, found that one laptop was stolen from their billing department. Apart from the loss of the pricey electronic item, it included much more than that. Along with the laptop, gone were those:
- Unencrypted patient records
- Innumerable social security numbers
- A plethora of financial information for 1,769 patients and
- Lots of additional data that may impact more than 200,000 other patients.
All these for just one laptop! It is surely a heavy price to pay not considering the black mark on the reputation of the health care service center.
Therefore, health care cyber security is an important aspect that you should consider from the word go to the last one. This will ensure that your agency is not at such risks of major data breach due to hacking and cyber-attack.
State of health care cyber security
There are two specific reasons that the health care servicesare even more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data pilferage and need more focus on cyber security. These are:
- There is a large amount of sensitive personal data of patients that are managed by the electronic records agencies on a daily basis and
- These agencies often commit the common mistake of undervaluing the risks involved and fail to put passable security in place.
The fact that the health care services are the prime targets is substantiated by the 2017 Data Breach Industry Forecast from Experian.
- They predict that he health care organizations will become the most targeted of all sectors when it comes to cyber-attacks in the following years.
- They also found that more than 112 million health care records were accessed illegally in 2015 alone.
Another report of the Ponemon Institute indicates that more than 89% of the health care organizations experienced data breach in the past couple of years.
Different ways manifested
The risks in health care cyber security are manifested in a wide variety of ways. These include:
- Hackers breaking into the Electronic Health Record systems or EHRs through internet connections
- The good old fashioned human errors that make private data and info available publicly by mistake and
- The thieves who steal computers or paper records.
However, the risks with the EHR systems seem to be more profound. According to the claims of the FBI, the value of EHR data stolen can be much more than the value of the financial data stolen. This is because along with the RHR data the thief can come to know a host of other things such as:
- Names of the patients
- Their date of births
- All billing information
- Payments details and info
- Social Security Numbers and
- Policy numbers.
All these are extremely valuable information that can be leveraged for personal financial gains or can be sold to a third party easily for high amount.
Apart from that there are several other risks involved as well such as:
- Fraudsters can buy medications or medical equipment by creating fake IDs using the health care info acquired and
- They may also file false claims for reimbursements with the insurance providers knowing their policy numbers.
The reason the fraudsters favor EHR systems are also peculiarly strange to digest.
- Even after all the alarming news of data breach in different organizations in the past few years amounting to thousands of millions of dollars, health care agencies still fail to ensure proper cyber security in their systems often. Those who have one in place ignore upgrading it. This means there is a lax cyber atmosphere that allows the fraudsters not only to get into the systems quickly but also to get what they want and escape unnoticed covering their tracks easily.
- There are also a few health care agencies that argue that their systems are the latest and do not need any such security to prevent hacking by the fraudsters. It is true that most of the modern EHR systems do include special security features but to make it foolproof the health care agencies need to maintain them as well as configure hem properly.
The ultimate responsibility of the security of the systems vests on the health care agencies themselves to ensure that as part of the HIPAA requirements their EHR software is encrypted, up-to-date, and properly maintained.
Tips to avoid cyber-attacks
There are lots of ways, thankfully, in which you can avoid as well as respond to cyber-attacks. A few simple measures include:
Educating your staff on cyber security best practices is one way to go. Since the office staff typically uses and controls the communication systems, effective security largely depends on them, if they are properly educated. Make them knowledgeable about the points of entry of the hackers for a data breach.
Frame guidelines and implement these to keep info secure. This must include and not limit to the login credentials, safeguarding the physical devices of the agency and being vigilant about staff authentication. Add to all these make sure that:
- The staffs regularly change login info
- Use passwords that are difficult to guess
- An added layer of security is provided
- Software updates are maintained
- Security gaps are fixed as and when discovered and prepare for any worst case scenario by developing a business continuity plan.
Remember, sound training and a smart tactic will help you and your business to go a long way on the safe road.