When it comes to valuable information, organizations within the medical field are sitting on a goldmine, at least in the eyes of hackers. While lots of other kinds of businesses and organizations might have credit card information or password information stolen from time to time, there’s a key difference between that kind of information and the information collected by healthcare organizations: it can be changed.
If someone’s credit card is compromised, they can cancel it. If your password is stolen, you can change it. But if someone steals information about your identity, it’s not something you can ever cancel or change. Additionally, medical data is highly sensitive and most people are concerned about it being shared with anyone beyond their medical team.
That’s why laws surrounding medical data are extremely strict. It’s also why hospitals and medical insurers are frequent targets for cyberattacks. While it’s not possible to prevent every single data breach, medical organizations have an obligation to protect sensitive patient data. Here are some tips for keeping medical data safe and hackers at bay.
Prioritize Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
People tell their doctors just about everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There’s an extremely high level of trust involved when someone steps into an exam room, and the basis of that is doctor-patient confidentiality. Patients have to be sure that their doctor won’t talk about their health, habits, and other disclosures they might make during their appointment.
Doctors are obligated to maintain confidentiality for their patients and to share their health information only with permission or under specific circumstances. It’s required by law, but it should also be a foundational value within your organization. Make sure that everyone within your organization understands the laws involved, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and takes every precaution to behave ethically and safely in regards to patient information.
Implement New Technologies Within Your Healthcare Organization
Although patient data is most often lost due to cyberattacks, new and improved technology can do a better job of protecting sensitive information. Smart hospitals, which use data to implement automation, increase efficiency, and even improve patient outcomes, rely on advanced technology to protect their networks. By upgrading your organization’s technological infrastructure, you can better protect patient data.
One promising technology in cybersecurity is the blockchain. First created for the cryptocurrency bitcoin, this distributed ledger system has proven to be a great choice for industries requiring a high level of security, such as finance and medicine. Healthcare organizations can leverage new security tools and systems like the blockchain to fight back against hackers.
Securing Devices and Networks
With data playing a bigger role in medicine all the time, it’s important for organizations to be aware of all the different vulnerabilities within their networks. The networks themselves must be secure, as well as all of the devices that connect to those networks. With the rise of mobile devices in healthcare organizations, it’s extremely important to make sure that security measures and proper training for staff are in place.
Encryption is one of the most important steps organizations can take to secure data on their networks. On top of that, any devices used on the network should be constantly accounted for and have their settings updated with security in mind. Passwords must be strong, and there must be some way to lock and/or wipe devices that are lost or stolen. These precautions are key for reducing vulnerabilities and opportunities for hackers.
Make Security a Fundamental Value of Your Organization’s Culture
The truth is that the biggest security vulnerability in any organization is the employees. People click on suspicious links, use easy passwords, take advantage of unsecured networks, or forget to log out of their accounts all the time. Proper training is the first step, but to really increase your organization’s cybersecurity, you need to embed it within your organizational culture.
People need to follow the rules (especially the inconvenient ones!) if you want to protect your patient data. There’s more at stake than money or legal trouble—people deserve their privacy. It isn’t easy to get everyone on board, but once you’ve made it part of your policy and culture, new hires will be brought on with the expectation that they will contribute to a safe and secure workplace.
Changing culture isn’t easy. But if you can instill in your workforce just how important it is to keep sensitive data safe, you’ll be well on your way to a more secure organization that’s better equipped to prevent breaches.