Most healthcare organizations and their IT teams recognize the importance of maintaining internal network security. Unfortunately, many often lack clear insight into the significant cybersecurity risks posed from their third-party vendors.

Increasingly, cyber attacks against hospitals and health systems don’t begin within the medical facility’s internal infrastructure; it originates from their vendor’s system, eventually working its way into the healthcare organization’s digital platform. This elevates the criticality of thorough evaluations of  your vendors and their security policies.

The first step to creating an effective and consistent vendor cybersecurity management program is developing a thorough policy that details risks, controls, and requirements to establish consistency with every outsourced partner. 

Third-Party Vendors and Healthcare Cybersecurity

When creating your healthcare environment’s protocol, consider including several of the following program components.

Build Your Vendor Catalogue

Many healthcare organizations struggle to patrol their list of vendors simply because they don’t actually have a list of vendors. As a best practice, compile a comprehensive list of all outside suppliers and service providers. This list should be itemized and, ideally, include their partners and providers as well.

Identify Potential Threats

Outlining a thorough list can help your IT team zero in on any potential risks to your network’s ecosystem. Go through each provider to determine the level of access to sensitive data each supplier has, qualifying specific risks and data protection requirements for each.

Beyond access to confidential information, you should also consider other key points such as passwords and personal identification information.

Systematically Organize Vendors By Risk Category

Once you’ve gone through each third-party profile to identify any possible threats, you will begin to see patterns of vendors who all share the same risk categories. Systematically organize your list by classification to prioritize those that pose the biggest danger to your digital platforms and develop a plan of action to implement controls that mitigate risk.

For example, some vendors may require access controls based on role, but your healthcare organization may determine that some of your suppliers shouldn’t have any access to specific networks or systems at all. Going through each provider to safeguard the use of your systems can strengthen your overall network security, maintain your HIPAA compliance requirements, and proactively help prevent a data breach.

Establish Consistent System Monitoring

Of course, going through and upping cybersecurity measures with all of your current vendors is only the first step in a thorough, effective plan. It’s also vital to create a practice for consistently monitoring the vendor ecosystem within your healthcare networks to maintain security at all times.

Ongoing audits are one of the best ways to assess vendor stability within your organization as well as help your IT team remain vigilant about potential hacks as they navigate through the ever-evolving terrain of cybercrime.  

Develop A Strategy For New Providers

Beyond monitoring existing suppliers, you should also have a system in place that carefully reviews new providers before granting them access to your systems and network. Before giving prospective vendors permissions in your digital platform, they should be carefully screened to determine crucial operational components such as:

  • Current data protection standards
  • Cybersecurity training for testing and development teams
  • Measures to assess individual employee security understanding
  • Existing disaster recovery plan

Diligently qualifying every new vendor can help protect your healthcare organization from internal system compromises and future cyber attacks.