Audit. The mere mention of the word can instantly stir mild to moderate panic throughout even the most diligent healthcare IT department.

For myriad of reasons, most healthcare organizations dread the idea of conducting industry-mandated cybersecurity risk assessments. Compliance evaluations are time-consuming, disrupting normal business activities, and potentially exposing network security risks and compromises.

While an outside review of your healthcare organization can increase the chance of exposing gaps in your existing cybersecurity and data loss prevention efforts, the reality is that consistent cybersecurity audits are necessary. They:

  • Demonstrate (and maintain) regulatory compliance, which plays a pivotal role in building stakeholder confidence
  • Establish organizational transparency
  • Proactively acknowledge vendor security and data breach concerns.
  • Are a notable service differentiator for your facility, conveying that you prioritize network security and the protection of patient information 

Commonly overlooked cybersecurity audit elements

Preparation is the best way to mitigate risk, stress, and worry throughout an audit. Here are some things many healthcare IT departments miss when getting ready for their next risk assessment. 

Changes

Many healthcare companies fail to familiarize themselves with current healthcare audit practices. Some IT departments feel they are too busy to take the time needed to get up-to-speed on existing mandates and requirements, while others assume that nothing has changed since the last time their organization was evaluated.

How to fix: Refresh yourself (and your team) on the processes, regulations, and controls outlined in the HITECH Act to recognize exactly what HIPAA compliance entails.

Focus

Under the threat of a pending audit, many healthcare IT departments assume what they need to address and change before the process begins, ultimately going far wider than what is actually required, while simultaneously running the risk of overlooking mandatory components.

How to fix: Establish an initiative focus before you start modifying your current cybersecurity strategies and practices. Understanding exactly what will be addressed allows you to break down the scope of the assessment into easily attainable goals and objectives to optimize success.  

Documentation

Documentation is everything during the audit process. It’s not enough to follow protocol with your network security and secure email efforts. You also have to provide extensive documentation on every action and initiative performed to prove that it actually occurred.

How to fix: Work with your team to create a process that prioritizes updating and maintaining all documentation requirements, including where your organization’s ePHI (electronic protected health information) resides, potential system risks, and plan for protecting ePHI in the event of a data breach.  

Initiative

Audits deliver a multitude of significant benefits for healthcare organizations across every specialty. Many healthcare organizations wait for their scheduled third-party evaluations to tap into the power of compliance and risk assessments.

How to fix: Periodically run mock inspections within your organization to proactively unearth and resolve potential privacy and security weaknesses, so you’re fully prepared by the time of the official audit.

 

Embrace The Benefits

Most healthcare leaders view an inspection as an adversarial event explicitly designed to highlight performance gaps and security lapses. However, modern cybercriminals and their increasingly sophisticated attacks are the real enemy of network security.

Work with your team to change the overall perception of the review process, recognizing that all findings (even negative ones) can have a positive impact on your organization’s ability to both serve customers and protect their sensitive data.