Data security is an essential part of the healthcare industry for protecting confidential patient information and complying with regulations like those mandated by HIPAA. In the past, it was fairly easy to protect patient data and keep it secure because the information was recorded on paper and locked in filing cabinets.
However today, thanks to advances in technology and the digital age, patient records are now stored electronically on computers, servers, and storage devices. With electronic records comes increased risks of data breaches, malware, viruses, and other malicious attacks.
Today, nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals rely on technologies, such as computers and tablets, to access, update, and record patient data. Data may also be shared between multiple facilities and healthcare providers. As such, better healthcare data security solutions are needed to help reduce the risks of malicious data attacks or technical failure.
What Is Data Security?
Data security is any type of preventative measure that helps secure and protect data. The objective of data security for healthcare operations is to develop an effective and efficient plan to ensure their data and patient data are as secure as possible.
Healthcare organizations like Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals are especially susceptible to cyber attacks from hackers looking to gain personal information and commit medical fraud. It is vital that healthcare organizations carefully determine the potential causes of data breaches and develop effective security solutions that include both internal and external risk factors.
What Are Some Healthcare Data Risk Factors?
Some of the more common risk factors healthcare operations need to be aware of when developing healthcare data security solutions includes, but may not be limited to:
1. The use of outdated/legacy systems. Outdated operating systems, applications, and legacy systems make it easier for hackers to gain access to healthcare data. These types of systems lack proper security because they are no longer supported by the company that created the software or hardware. It is better to upgrade to newer, more secure systems.
2. Email scams with malware. Phishing scams are becoming more complex, with the emails looking like they came from a known source like vendors and suppliers. Opening the email or clicking on links within the email could install malware and allow a hacker access to healthcare data. Educate employees regarding the need to take extra care and never open suspicious emails.
3. Internal employees, contractors, vendors, etc. Healthcare data could be at risk of being stolen, shared online, or obtained by disgruntled employees, contractors, and vendors.
4. Unsecure or poor wireless network security. Securing data goes beyond wired workstations. Since many healthcare organizations use wireless devices, it is essential to ensure wireless networks are secured with complex passwords.
5. The lack of strong passwords. Another risk factor in healthcare organizations is using weak passwords. You need to make sure your password requirements are strong, so they cannot be easily guessed or hacked. You also need to verify employees are not reusing the same password for multiple systems and applications.
6. A lack of training in data security practices. When employees, contractors, vendors, etc. are not trained correctly, they may have no idea they are violating security protocols. It is vital to train all new staff. It is equally beneficial to conduct regular reviews with all staff members and verify the fact that they are following the proper and current data security practices.
7. Failure to always keep data secure. One of the more common causes of a lack of data security is when employees walk away from workstations and leave them unlocked so that anyone could use the workstation to obtain and steal data. Make sure employees understand the importance of locking workstations or enabling auto-locking features after an extremely brief period of inactivity.
Why Does the Healthcare Industry Have a Higher Risk of Data Attacks?
One of the main reasons the healthcare industry is at a higher risk of data attacks compared to other industries is the type of data collected and stored. Healthcare organizations can have very detailed records of patients that include their name, date of birth, address, social security number, payment account information, and so on.
Since healthcare organizations collect such data, it increases the risks of data attacks. Additionally, healthcare data tend to fetch a higher amount on the black markets compared to other types of stolen data. For these reasons, it’s extremely important for organizations like the VA hospitals to use adequate data security solutions.
What Types of Healthcare Data Security Solutions Should You Use?
The types of healthcare data security solutions you should use will depend on the data storage methods used, the types of data you collect, how long you keep data, and so on. In general, you should have security measures in place that include security protocols for your patients, employees, contractors, vendors, suppliers, etc.
Data access permissions need to be tightly controlled on a need-to-know basis. For instance, with patient insurance information and billing records, not everyone needs access to this data. Rather, you would want to limit access to only those responsible for processing insurance claims and billing patients for outstanding balances.
The same is true with patient records that show their diagnoses, treatment plans, prescriptions, and so on. Only attending physicians and their nurses need access to this data. Other healthcare professionals may also need access, but that should be controlled on a case-by-case basis and limited to just the specific data they require.
Some of the more common types of data security solutions you can use include:
Data Backup and Recovery Solutions – You want to ensure your data are backed up daily to secure servers like a portable NAS server. Portable servers are ideal when you have multiple locations or want to ensure your backup is stored offsite in a safe and secure location.
- The Use of Data Encryption – Data encryption is vital when transferring data from workstations to servers, the internet, or cloud-based systems. Encryption is the highest level currently available and it absolutely should be employed.
- The Use of Anti-Virus/Malware/Spyware Apps – You need to make sure your systems are protected from viruses, malware, spyware, etc. You should choose an appropriate app that best meets your needs and then keep it updated at all times.
- System Monitoring Apps – There are several types of apps available that can monitor a wide array of different operations, processes, and procedures. You can use an app to monitor who is accessing, updating, creating, moving, and deleting files. You can use another app that detects potential data breaches. There are also apps to help identify unauthorized access, changes to user accounts, etc.
- Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication – Since it can be difficult to rely on employees, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and others to use secure passwords, another way to protect your data is to enable multi-factor authentication methods. These methods require users to provide their username and password and then verify one or more additional items, such as entering a one-time use passcode sent to their email account or mobile phone.
- Ransomware Protection – You will want an app that protects your workstations and servers from ransomware. This type of malicious attack locks you out of your own systems and holds them hostage until you pay a ransom to the hacker. Even after paying the ransom, there is no guarantee they will permanently restore your access to your data.
- Employee Training – You should get into the habit of regular training sessions with new and current employees to ensure they are taking every precaution to protect patient records, data, and other vital information.
Keep in mind, this is just a sample list of potential data security solutions you could use to protect patient data, employee data, and propriety data, etc. at your healthcare organization.
For further information about highly secure portable NAS servers for healthcare organizations and other healthcare data security solutions, please feel free to contact Ciphertex Data Security® at 818-773-8989 today!