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How Can Security Leaders in Healthcare Help Protect Employees and Data?

By July 23, 2021January 16th, 2023No Comments

Data breaches can be costly for any industry, but the fallout from data breaches seems particularly severe for the healthcare sector. On average, the healthcare sector experiences costs that are typically 65% higher than the average across all industries. In this article, we will discuss the Top 8 Data protection best practices that healthcare organizations can follow to protect their operations. For more detailed information on Healthcare Data Security, please refer to Healthcare IT Services in Vermont.

Data Security in Healthcare

Top 8 Data protection best practices for healthcare organizations

Educating Healthcare Staff

While humans remain the weak link in all cyber security defense strategies, healthcare again seems particularly vulnerable. The scope of human error or negligence is particularly magnified when it comes to the safety of healthcare data. A single error can lead to unimaginably disastrous consequences for the integrity of healthcare data. Even healthcare employees openly admit that nearly half of all healthcare employees feel less secure outside office environments and 42% admit to being less likely to follow safe data practices for data breach prevention when they are engaged in remote work. This is why security awareness training is critical across the ranks of healthcare employees so they can make smarter cyber security choices. With the requisite knowledge and appropriate tools and data breach response mechanisms at their disposal, healthcare employees can be empowered to use caution in handling patient data and raise red flags whenever they come across significant anomalies or odd behaviors in the system.

Restricting Access to Data and Applications

Restricting access has been a viable strategy in combating a variety of cyber threats. Healthcare organizations should follow the same in order to protect patient data and implement access controls strictly on a need to know basis. User authentication can be an effective tool in implementing access controls for both data and applications using sensitive data. Multi-factor authentication is even safer. Access authentication ensures that:

  • Privileged information is accessed only by users who are cleared to have access to that data
  • Insurers an additional degree of security by checking user authentication against something only authorized users will know
  • User authentication can be made even stronger by using foolproof methods, such as biometrics (facial recognition, fingerprints, retinal scans etc.)

Implementing Data Usage Controls

Data usage controls are much broader in scope than just access controls. This includes all kinds of access controls and monitoring so it becomes second nature for the system to immediately flag any abnormal or malicious data activity. This can also be used to automate emergency responses in case of breaches before human intervention can step in. Healthcare organizations, in particular, should use data controls to bar specific actions when it comes to sensitive data, such as blocking web uploads, unauthorized emailing, sharing, or printing. For truly effective data controls, it is also critical to have proper data discovery and classification in place so sensitive information can be properly tagged and identified for security purposes.

Logging and Monitoring Use

Well it may seem a tedious process, access and usage data logging also forms a critical part in the security chain. This can enable your employees to effectively monitor information access including applications, and other resources. This will log everything from who is accessing what data, when, and using what devices and from which locations. Details of these logs can be extremely valuable for auditing and even RCA (root cause analysis) purposes. Auditing processes can help businesses identify areas of vulnerability and help patch them up. This audit trail can be especially helpful in the case of a security incident to pinpoint points of ingress, understand the causes, and damages.

Influence standards and laws

In order to protect patient data in the long term, healthcare organizations must put far-reaching policies in place that significantly reduce the chances of data compromise. These policies must set the course for proper handling of sensitive patient data for all members of the healthcare organization. Patient privacy and security needs to be at the forefront and healthcare information management professionals need to have a chance to moderate rules and regulations beyond the scope of their own organization and relate to regulations at the state and federal levels. This is critical as systems become increasingly interoperable for handling all patient information. Managed IT Services Vermont can help you gain an in-depth understanding of all compliance and regulations relevant to your business.

Encrypting Data

Encryption continues to be one of the most effective tools for data protection for healthcare organizations. Data needs to be encrypted both in transit and at rest, so it becomes impossible for hackers to use the data even if they manage to gain access to the network or the data. This is also supported by HIPAA that recommends data encryption as per the organization’s specific workflow and operational needs.

Securing Mobile Devices

With healthcare customers, i.e., patients going increasingly mobile, it is necessary for healthcare organizations to utilize mobile devices in the conduct of business. However, mobile devices can become a liability if they are not secured enough. It is up to healthcare organizations to ensure that all business associates are aware of the risks and use mobile devices responsibly. Ensuring the security of mobile devices involves multiple security initiatives including:

  • Secure mobile device management that takes care of all user devices, settings, and configurations
  • Enforcing strong password hygiene
  • Enabling remote lock/ wipes of lost or stolen devices
  • Encrypting sensitive data in transit and at rest
  • Using effective email filters and monitoring stop to scan attachments and prevent malware, data theft etc.
  • Conducting effective and repetitive security awareness training and empowering users with mobile device security best practices
  • Mandatory installation and updates of software including mobile security software

Conducting Regular Audits for Risk Assessments

As already mentioned above, audit trails are incredibly helpful in identifying the cause and other details of security incidents enabling organizations to patch existing vulnerabilities. IT Support Vermont can help you conduct regular, effective auditing to stay abreast of all compliance needs. Regular risk assessments can also help companies with proactive data protection including identifying weaknesses in the security posture of vendors and business associates, and more. Identifying and mitigating potential risks is a continuous process as threats are constantly evolving and healthcare organizations need to stay a step ahead of them to avoid highly damaging data breaches.

Mary Loyer

Mary is responsible for management and maintenance of an adequate system of accounting, monitoring internal controlls, financial reporting, payroll and tax compliance. Mary operates her own business of 13 years as a QuickBooks Proadvisor Consultant/Bookkeeper and worked previously for 7 years with a CPA firm as their QuickBooks Advisor. A graduate of Champlain College, she has extensive accounting background, taught training seminars on QuickBooks and a course for Small Business Development. Mary enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, outdoor activities, live music and walking their dog. She volunteers as a mentor with the South Burlington School Mentoring Program for 6 years and continues to enjoy this special time weekly.

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