management in healthcare

5 Key Steps to Data Security Management in Healthcare

We always stress the rising importance of cybersecurity. It doesn’t matter what size your business is or how new it is, and it doesn’t matter which industry you belong to. However, we also emphasize that some industries are in fact more vulnerable than others. Healthcare industry tops the list of industries most susceptible to cyber attacks in the US.

In 2017, the healthcare industry faced twice the number of cyber-attacks than any other industry. With nearly 32,000 intrusions a day, it even surpasses the finance industry in terms of vulnerability. Despite this alarming state, the industry stands fifteenth on the security scorecard.

Since the data available to healthcare organizations is sensitive, the government has introduced numerous regulations and policies to improve cybersecurity across the healthcare industry. Failure to meet certain standards will now lead to severe consequences that will cost money and reputation. It’s high time for healthcare organizations to improve their data security management.

 Start with HIPAA

Let us complete it for you – start with HIPAA but go beyond it. HIPAA are two of the key regulations healthcare organizations need. HIPAA risk analysis can provide a clear picture of the threats and risks faced by your organization. HIPAA’s scope was further broadened after the HITECH amendment. Together, these regulations ensure that Protected Healthcare Information held by the organization is safe and secure.

HIPAA calls for a mandatory risk assessment that can uncover all the risks. Following the analysis report, you need to create and implement a strategy to eliminate or manage the risks identified. There are certain HIPAA guidelines to follow. While HIPAA covers most of the aspects, it defines the baseline. It outlines the minimal standard of cybersecurity but organizations should aim for maximum.

 Ensure Data Encryption

Encryption is how you go beyond HIPAA. The American Medical Association recommends encryption of all the medical records and PHI data. The data should be encrypted so that it remains impossible to decipher even in case of a breach. It is best to encrypt all the data relevant to PHI, which includes reports, images, payment receipts, or any communication regarding PHI data.

Encryption provides an additional layer of safety and security. However, you need to invest in the highest level of encryption. As of now, AMA recommends AES 256-bit encryption, currently considered virtually unbreakable.

Encryption also saves you from the trouble of notifying the patients about the breach. HIPAA makes it mandatory to notify all patients about any PHI related breach, unless the data is encrypted, in which case the information remains uncompromised.

 Secure All Devices

BYOD and IoT have made their way into the healthcare industry. Your data security management plan should include preventing data theft through those devices. First, there needs to be an authentication process for any device that requests a connection. This includes the employee’s personal devices and the devices that aren’t supposed to leave the premises. The latter is also prone to theft and unauthorized access.

In a very recent news, data of nearly 43,000 patients was compromised due to a stolen laptop. This kind of breach can cost you a hit of up to 4 million dollars. While you cannot completely prevent loss and theft of devices, you can ensure high-end encryption so that data remains inaccessible in case of a breach. This goes for mobile devices, laptops, and USBs.

 Educate Your Employees

Technology can only secure you to a certain extent. No matter how advanced your cyber security plan is, there is always a chance of human error. Leaving a device vulnerable to theft is also human negligence. Reports verify that a vast majority of cyber breach incidents are due to human error, deliberate or unintentional. Sometimes employees leave data in a compromising situation. Sometimes employees accidentally email data to the wrong recipient. Sometimes the information is passed on to an unauthorized personnel.

Not to mention, social engineers and phishers also use employees to access information. Therefore, it is important to train your employees regarding responsible behavior and data security best practices. Make guidelines and make cybersecurity part of the company culture. Take initiative to turn them from vulnerabilities to your strongest line of defense.

 Disaster Recovery Plan

You have the best encryption in place and all your employees are fully aware of their responsibilities – but breaches can happen even when all your bases are covered.  No organization is immune. It is why data security management is incomplete with a disaster recovery plan. No matter how much time and money you have invested in cybersecurity, you need to stay prepared for the worst-case scenario.

A disaster recovery plan isn’t just a cushion against HIPAA penalties, it also enables you to keep the business up and running while the situation is dealt with. The recovery plans should also involve complete data backup so that you don’t have to pay the ransom to get your data back. Encryption will ensure that the data remains unusable even if you don’t pay the ransom.

 The Final Word

Healthcare industry is in the crosshairs. Cybercriminals can’t wait to carry an attack and the feds can’t wait to penalize you for being a victim. However, with the right technology, team, and policies, it is possible to eliminate all the looming risks.

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