Electronic Health Records: How Safe is Your Health Data?

In general, data breaches are the most common privacy concern in relation to hospitals. Hospitals are like a treasure trove filled with valuable data. They hold important and sensitive information such as patient names, medical histories, contact information, which can pose a serious risk to their privacy. There have been numerous instances where individuals tried to access hospital serves to steal this type of information.

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Security and Privacy Concerns

To make the matter even worse, hospitals don’t boast impressive cybersecurity measures, making them even more prone to different kinds of cyberattacks. Another downside is that many hospitals around the globe still use paper filing systems. The issue arises when they try to convert these files into an electronic format – if not done properly, files can easily be uploaded to unprotected servers or simply get lost.

The consequences of these potential threats are numerous and often terrible. Identity theft is among the most common actions that are performed by hackers once they obtain this data. Or, if they don’t use it themselves, they often try to sell this information on the dark web to the highest bidder. That is extremely unsafe for unknowing victims, whose lives can get ruined in seconds because of these potential threats.

Here is some statistical information that just further proves how vulnerable hospitals can be:

  • 90% of healthcare organizations had experienced a data breach in the last two years
  • In total, there were 253 hospital data breaches only in 2015, and the number keeps on increasing
  • These data breaches have resulted in the loss of over 112 million health records
  • Roughly, data breaches cost the healthcare industry around $5.6 billion each year
  • One in three US citizens has had their health data compromised by at least one data breach

How to Mitigate These Issues?

While the risks associated with hospitals and how they store their data are serious, they can be mitigated by implementing a couple of precautionary measures. The important thing to note here is that data breach prevention should be hospitals’ top priority. Things get a lot more complicated once the data breach actually occurs, so doing everything to prevent it is crucial. Here are our top safety recommendations.

1. Use a Password Manager

Password managers are great for two reasons – they store all user passwords, and generate strong passwords. Weak passwords are a leading cause of data breaches, which is why every healthcare organization should ensure that they’re using strong passwords. Implement a secure password management solution to generate and store passwords, so you’d ensure that no one gains unauthorized access to your systems. Password managers also protect devices from keylogging software, because they eliminate the need for physically typing in passwords.

2. Use a VPN
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VPNs should be your first line of defense when connecting to any type of network. What is a VPN, though? VPN is like a gateway between the user and the web. It encrypts all user traffic that goes through the device, ensuring that one is intercepting any data or spying on you. They often come in enterprise editions, which offer impressive security controls and features.

All employees’ devices should be equipped with a VPN solution that runs non-stop. VPNs can mitigate any risks associated with man-in-the-middle attacks, spoofing, spying, etc.

3. Improve Administrative Controls

When it comes to administrative controls, hospitals should focus on updating and improving their existing policies to support and conquer the ever-growing cybersecurity threat pool. Employee training plays a huge role in this as well.

Human error is another leading cause of data breaches. By educating your employees, you’ll ensure that they won’t fall for any phishing or social engineering attempts. Make sure to hire professionals to do the training – they are familiar with all the latest trends and procedures.

4. Auditing and Monitoring
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Make sure to perform annual or bi-annual network penetration testing, to ensure that all systems are up-to-date and able to fight off any unauthorized access attempts. These tests are great for identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Moreover, you should frequently audit all system users, to ensure that they’re following the best cybersecurity practices at all times. If you find out that an employee is slacking, make sure to issue suitable punishments or have them go through training once again.

Hospitals are here to save lives and help others. However, a massive number of malicious actors want to take advantage of hospitals for financial gain. They will stop at nothing, which is why the whole healthcare industry should be proactive about cybersecurity. Make sure to regularly patch and update your systems, provide your employees with thorough training, and follow all the best cybersecurity practices suggested by leading experts.

Interesting related article: “What is Cybersecurity?