Cyber attacks are a regular occurrence throughout the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, not only are data and network security compromises common, they are also costly. A cyberattack can cost the organization $1.4 million in recovery expenses alone on average, including loss of productivity, service disruption, and irreparable reputation damage for medical provider. 

Cybercriminals often target the path of least resistance

While cybercriminals tend to focus on larger healthcare systems and organizations, it’s important to know that an attack can happen to small and mid-sized practices as well. In fact, some cybercriminals specifically target a smaller organization simply because they assume these practices won’t have the resources and infrastructure needed to reinforce network security against a sophisticated digital attack. If you’re concerned about cybersecurity at your healthcare practices, it is possible to increase efforts and results. 

Here are six ways for taking your healthcare information management system from mere compliance to reinforced excellence. 

Start with a Security Risk Assessment

Security risk assessments must be conducted to maintain HIPAA compliance as well as various payer requirements. Best practice is to complete these annually as part of an ongoing operational risk management process. Most healthcare facilities attempt to perform their security risk assessments internally. However, if they don’t have the resources needed for a comprehensive evaluation, they may miss critical factors that put their practice at risk. A third-party cybersecurity professional can conduct a thorough assessment of your organization, pinpointing any potential risks, ensuring the patch management program is working as designed, and making recommendations for practices that strengthen the security program and protect patient data.

Encrypt Data

HIPAA compliance has an addressable requirement for the encryption of patient data. Unfortunately, many facilities lack discipline in their data protection program as new information and intelligence is added to their systems. Develop a protocol for consistent data protection and encryption. 

Verify Users

Most healthcare organizations authenticate their users with a username and a password. However, this may not be enough to keep motivated cybercriminals at bay. To maintain cybersecurity excellence throughout your healthcare organization, implement a multi-factor authentication solution to protect assets and resources on the facility’s network. If implementing multi-factor authentication isn’t feasible, create a best practice that requires authenticated users to change their passwords on a 60 to 90-day basis with complexity required.

Reinforce Remote Access Security

Remote access is quite often necessary for providers and remote employees and an improperly secured network can have dire consequences. Using a correctly configured  and secured remote access solution can prove an invaluable resource for users connecting to the network. A VPN provides a secure, temporary connection by encrypting all of the data transmitted between a remote user and a provider’s digital environment. 

Establish Role Based Access Permission

Many healthcare organizations fail to create a hierarchy of user-based data access in their organization. Allowing everyone within the organization to view and transmit all information within the system can pose a serious threat to data residing on the network. Configure your software to restrict access using the practice of “least privilege.”  This will limit the risk of unnecessary or inadvertent data access. 

Keep Users Trained and Informed

What most healthcare administrators don’t realize is that many data breaches actually occur due to an internal user’s inadvertent actions and/or negligence. Most employees won’t knowingly cause a cybersecurity lapse, yet many staff members unknowingly break protocol on a daily basis. Developing a consistent security and awareness training program for all internal resources will equip your teams to better protect patient information and avoid causing a security incident.