Hospitals hold some of the most valuable data in the world—and hackers know it better than anyone. Administrators need to be on guard at all times to protect patient data, which is very sensitive and personal. While data breaches are extremely common in the healthcare industry, they are often very costly for hospitals and compromise patients’ privacy and peace of mind. In 2020 alone, healthcare data breaches cost hospitals and other healthcare companies over $4 billion.
The risks of data breaches aren’t going away anytime soon. We previously wrote about the AMCA data breach, which exposed records of over 25 million patients. This is not even the worst case scenario that we have seen in recent years. Data breaches are only going to get worse.
It’s challenging to stay at least one step ahead of cybercriminals, but it’s something that should always be at the top of your priority list. But knowing just how important it is to keep data safe, how can you beat the odds and keep hackers off your networks? Here are some steps you can take to help prevent data theft.
Keep Your Technologies and Software Up to Date
Cybersecurity is always evolving and your security team needs to stay on top of the newest innovations and developments in both cybercrime and security. The good news is that software manufacturers are always patching and updating their software to be more secure. All you have to do to take advantage of those patches is to accept the updates as they come out.
It’s also a good idea to invest in technology that is security-focused. A lot of older technology was built during a time when security wasn’t such an issue. Many of these older devices have major security vulnerabilities, meaning that it might be time to think about upgrading your technology. As a bonus, the new technology will likely be more effective and efficient.
Prioritize Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
Patients trust that when they walk into the hospital and share the most personal details of their lives, that their healthcare providers won’t pass that information on without permission. Doctor-patient confidentiality forms the bedrock of the relationship and is absolutely crucial for providing proper care and protecting sensitive data.
Most doctors know the importance of doctor-patient confidentiality already since it’s required by law. But within a hospital’s organizational culture, it’s a good idea to prioritize this confidentiality and to offer training around protecting patient data. Team training will help to reduce any data breaches due to papers left out or computers left logged in and other careless lapses.
Implement the Latest Data Encryption Software
Encryption is the best line of defense against data theft, and you should use the latest software to help keep patient data safe. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) does not require that healthcare organizations use encryption, but it is the gold standard in breach prevention and should not be considered optional.
In addition to helping to prevent data breaches, encryption offers some legal protection for hospitals. Under HIPAA, encrypted data that is lost is not considered a breach. It’s advised that you protect your hardware and your data, whether at rest or during transfer, with the latest encryption software for greater protection and peace of mind. You must also make sure that your employees understand the importance of proper security protocols.
Develop a Prevention-Based Culture Within Your Teams
You can have policies in place for data protection, but if you don’t have a strong culture of security and breach prevention within your organization, then you may run into trouble. Creating a prevention-based culture is a challenging, ongoing effort, but responding to a major breach (or even multiple breaches) is an even more challenging alternative.
Creating a prevention-based culture starts at the top and works its way down. Your leadership team needs to understand just how serious cybercrime is and should be prepared to reinforce good habits within the teams they manage. You should schedule regular, mandatory training and ensure that everyone within the organization is familiar with the threat involved with breaches, best practices for prevention, and how to respond should a breach occur.
Prevention is key, but it’s also crucial to have a plan in place in case a breach does occur. The quicker a breach is detected and dealt with, the better. Costs of a breach can easily run into the millions and hospitals need to anticipate and address any breaches right away. Proper policies, training, and clear protocols are key.
In the modern hospital, the threat of a data breach is always looming. Although no one likes to spend time planning for the worst, it’s just like any other kind of risk management. Prepare as best you can and be prepared to react if and when you’re the target of a successful attack.
Healthcare Data Security Must Be a Top Priority
You can’t afford to overlook the dangers that data breaches pose to healthcare providers. You must take all reasonable measures to protect patient data.