Healthcare organizations and their business associates operate within one of the most tightly regulated industries of all. Given the nature of the data they hold, this shouldn’t come as any surprise.
What many healthcare leaders aren’t aware of, however, is that despite these strict requirements, they’re still favorite targets for hackers, ransomware purveyors, and other malefactors. While the law isn’t always clear on precisely what measures healthcare providers need to take to protect themselves, there are a few universal rules to follow:
#1. Carry out regular risk assessments
Every digital security and data privacy strategy begins with a risk assessment, and it’s also a requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A risk assessment starts with an inventory of all your informational assets (both digital and physical) followed by a thorough analysis of the security controls in place to protect them and the classification levels of each record.
It’s not enough just to conduct a risk assessment and then be done with it. Given the evolving nature of cyberthreats and the fast-paced changes in today’s IT environments, revisit the assessment at least once per year. This is especially important after you’ve made any significant changes or upgrades to your IT systems.
#2. Implement a centralized management platform
In spite of all the convenience and flexibility provided by mobile devices and cloud services, the rise of new technologies has increased the number of cyberattack opportunities exponentially. If, for example, you allow your employees to use their own devices for work, then you’ve increased your exposure dramatically.
While it would make no sense at all to go back to the days of before cloud systems, you do still need a way to monitor devices and records. You need a clear data-governance strategy that knows where your data resides and gives admins the ability to control, audit, and protect it using a centralized dashboard.
#3. Manage access rights stringently
In the age of cloud computing, all it takes for a catastrophic data breach to occur is one stolen password. That’s why low-tech social engineering scams have become so popular. Moreover, with so many users frequently accessing patient information, it’s much harder to keep track of everyone.
Once again, the answer is a centralized control panel for managing user access rights across a full range of devices. Administrators also need a way to enforce security policies and immediately revoke access to people who have left the organization or devices that are unaccounted for. Finally, never rely only on passwords — always use multifactor authentication.
#4. Examine service level agreements carefully
Your technology vendors might promise the world when it comes to security and privacy but, in the end, it’s your responsibility to choose those who are themselves compliant with all the regulations facing your data. For example, if you put patient health information in the hands of a company that isn’t HIPAA-compliant, then your organization will be held accountable.
Healthcare organizations should only ever work with companies that are covered by HIPAA as business associates. This means their SLAs should clearly state that they’re compliant with state and federal privacy regulations and that you retain complete ownership of the data you entrust them to protect.
#5. Provide ongoing training to your employees
Unfortunately, a poorly informed employee is usually all it takes to create a disastrous data breach. After all, many people haven’t even got into the habit of protecting their smartphones, and the second most popular password in 2018 was “password.” That should tell you all you need to know about how far behind many people are with digital security.
Regular cybersecurity training programs are a legal requirement for good reason — the threat landscape is constantly changing, and it’s your job as a business leader to make sure that all your staff are up to speed.
Safebit Solutions provides comprehensive technology solutions to healthcare providers in and around Houston. Talk to us today to empower your business with the technology and expertise it needs to thrive.