The healthcare industry is approaching the age of digitally-driven care, running on a real-time health system. These systems heavily rely on the cloud. This means that the health care CIOs should institute total cloud-enabled digitization. Therefore, a properly thought out cloud strategy is the only way onwards.
If you compare it with other sectors, there was a clear hesitation towards adopting cloud operations in the healthcare industry. This is large because of compliance and security concerns. Most healthcare organizations fear losing control by shifting to cloud-based operations. However, the discussions surrounding cloud security risks require that health care organizations find the difference between uneasiness and real risks.
Adopting the cloud enables the development of technologies and applications like mobile applications, patient portals, IoMT & IoT, big data analytics, and electronic medical records. This provides scalability, flexibility, and agility that consequently improves patient outcomes. The decision-making process in the healthcare sector also benefits from these innovations.
Why Does Cloud Security Matter In Healthcare?
Cloud computing refers to delivering IT services, infrastructure, or platforms over the internet. It has become a vital part of government and business that seek to accelerate collaboration and innovation. In the healthcare sector, moving operations to the cloud aims at improving the safety, efficiency, and quality of healthcare services. It also aims to engage the family and patients better, improve patient privacy, and enhance care.
The main cloud concerns in the medical field include network reliability, total ownership costs, and data security. Although the perceived security lack is at times considered an impediment or just a cost factor, it can be among the most compelling reasons for moving to the cloud. A higher number of healthcare organizations are beginning to realize this. About 60% of healthcare CISOs and CIOs recognize the security benefits of moving to the public cloud, with 66% of them at some stage in shifting to the cloud.
Developing Cloud Security Strategy Before Cloud Migration
Before moving the healthcare operations in your organization to the cloud, there are several measures that you must assess and fulfill. Otherwise, migrating the operations to the cloud will expose them to various cybersecurity risks. Below are the cloud strategies to ensure before migrating to the cloud.
Make A Cloud Readiness Assessment For Your Software
A cloud readiness assessment refers to a healthcare organization’s process to determine if it is ready to migrate its operations to the cloud. During the evaluation, the healthcare organization examines its processes and resources and its present IT environment to determine if it can move to the cloud. This phase also considers some compliance and security requirements for the migration and how well the organization can scale in the future.
This offers the healthcare organization a deeper analysis, finding gaps within the infrastructure, and determining whether the entire IT infrastructure or just some applications are ready to migrate.
The software readiness assessment is considered a good practice and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. But it’s important to remember that migrating to the cloud is a significant investment that requires careful preparations and creating a solid plan. This will make the migration a smooth transition, and at the same time reduce the resources (money and time) spent on the entire process.
Review Cloud Migration Risks
Ensure that you review all the areas of risk. There are several challenges related to procedures, policies, guidance, technology, standards, and security when adopting cloud computing. On the cloud, healthcare organizations entrust their data to a third party. They also share the tenancy with different people’s data, meaning that the data needs strict access security. The regulatory compliance might require visibility to whoever has access to the data and where it is stored.
Discuss stakeholder concerns and cloud risk implications. Many cloud projects focus on different technologies and are IT-driven. To minimize exposure to risks and deliver organizational value, you should align such initiatives to the business strategies of your health organization. The risk governance committee or the board’s oversight and active engagement are vital requirements for the success of cloud security programs.
Mitigate Compliance Threats and Cloud Security
Identify the key security threats. The cloud computing security risks include identity theft, data breaches, malware infections, compliance violations, potential loss of revenue, and diminished customer trust.
Review compliance requirements. Healthcare organizations should seek legal opinion to ensure that it addresses the regulatory requirements related to PCI-DSS, HIPAA, among other security regulations.
Have an action plan for mitigating cloud security threats. To prevent cloud security threats, every organization has to have a clear action plan. This should span from educating the employees, having strong passwords to implementing end-to-end encryption or using a single sign-on solution with multi-factor authentication.
Evaluate your IT environment to identify the impacted infrastructure & data components. This involves instituting a proper business architecture framework containing the tools, products, processes, and techniques needed to create an entire IT system infrastructure.
Determine the cloud infrastructure requirements. Having a security architectural model might be helpful during security architecture design. You can group the conceptual security services into high-level areas like security governance, availability, integrity, compliance, access management, hosting, cryptography, and associated risks.
Address Cloud Reliability and Availability challenges
Review reliability and availability challenges. Will the cloud solution be reliable and available? Consider continuity planning and ensure you have a defined set of processes in place for managing and reclaiming the data, should the cloud service permanently cease.
Review recovery capabilities on cloud and requirements. Ensure that your healthcare organization has the required network bandwidth, connectivity, and proper technology that enables sufficient services from your cloud provider. For instance, if your internal network is down or unstable, the employees can’t access any applications hosted on the cloud system.
Assess the mitigation tactics for the reliability risks and availability. Any healthcare organization must ensure that data and infrastructural security are inbuilt into its cloud infrastructure. This includes choosing the right cloud system deployment from a supplier who is security conscious.
Handle The Talent Issue And Costs
Understand the shifts in IT responsibility. To manage cloud service providers effectively and staff your healthcare organization’s internal IT department appropriately, you must inventory and resource the IT roles and expertise. Ensure that you identify any changes to your existing staff resourcing.
Evaluate the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for cloud services. TCO analysis involves breaking down the expenses related to the implementation of cloud services. The TCO costs are divided into staffing, hardware, software, and ISP bills. Your cloud service vendor might provide a calculator to help you determine these costs. However, you should consider the processes, physical environment, people, and application. Note the different support models and cloud deployment. This will help you narrow down the ones that are best for you.
Vulnerability Assessments Regularly & Run Penetration Tests
One of the essential components of a proactive cloud security strategy is conducting regular vulnerability assessments. This could be done by your security team or a third party. Schedule routine penetration testing to identify any vulnerabilities within your system. The routine vulnerability assessments also highlight the areas where the vendors or employees don’t have sufficient cybersecurity readiness.
Regular vulnerability testing helps healthcare organizations proactively identify and eliminate the elements of a potential threat. Therefore, you can avert any data breach and its negative impacts before it happens. It is recommended that healthcare organizations conduct vulnerability assessments like penetration testing every two weeks on an automatic schedule to scan for any new vulnerabilities and urgently patch them.
Prepare Your Staff With Cyber Security Awareness Training
In cybersecurity, a famous saying is that you are as secure as your least informed employee. Although your staff is the frontline and most essential resource in ensuring your healthcare cloud security, they can also pose or turn out to be a considerable vulnerability too. The Healthcare industry is the only sector where an inside threat poses a greater risk than that from the outside.
Therefore, offering cybersecurity awareness training is a vital part of your Cloud Security Strategy for Healthcare. Today, healthcare organizations are victims of cyberattacks involving DDoS, phishing, Ransomware, data breaches, and malware attacks. Offering anti-phishing lessons to your staff bolsters your cloud security in healthcare.
The staff cybersecurity awareness training also offers them the necessary knowledge for the appropriate handling of patient data while also ensuring the staff doesn’t make rash decisions that may put the healthcare organization’s data security at risk. It also makes them aware of the uncommon and common mistakes they might make, which they might not otherwise think of.
Make Cyber Security Resilience a Part Of Your Mindset
To remain ahead of any cybersecurity threat that might impact your healthcare organization, you must orient your mind towards cybersecurity resilience. Institute measures ensure that your data is secure on the cloud and that your staff is adequately trained to handle data. You can achieve a lot by:
- Placing the right data access management controls.
- Monitoring and logging data access and use.
- Encrypting the data whenever in storage or under transmission.
- Developing a complex but memorable password policy.
- Monitoring the device’s health to ensure there aren’t any vulnerabilities that may be exploited.
- Decommissioning the legacy systems with modern intelligent ones.
- Patching any security vulnerabilities on time and installing the latest releases and updates.
- Setting up multi-factor authentication and geofencing your systems.
- Monitor access attempts and usage to identify any suspicious activity.
- Securing the cloud infrastructure with anti-bot and antispam systems.
Developing a resilient cybersecurity mindset can help you ensure healthcare cloud security because you can jump into cybersecurity issues before they actually happen.
Although most healthcare organizations were reluctant to adopt the cloud. Some are starting to see the agility, scalability, and security benefits migrating to the cloud offers. Cloud migration can be a daunting task, especially for healthcare organizations, owing to the many challenges, including ensuring HIPAA compliance.
However, it doesn’t have to be. You can create a Cloud Security Strategy for Healthcare that incorporates a readiness assessment checklist to ensure that you remain compliant with the regulation and patient data is safe. Though migrating to the cloud might pose many security challenges, developing a cyber security-conscious mind and offering cybersecurity awareness training to your staff might be two of the best strategies for being ahead of any threat to healthcare cloud security.