The medical field has experienced a massive digitization—one accelerated by the pandemic. Now, electronic health records are the norm, clinical systems are automated and workflows are evolving.
But with all this innovation comes challenges—specifically in the realm of cybersecurity. According to the Wall Street Journal, cyberattacks on healthcare providers and hospitals have intensified to the point where some doctors are turning away patients because they have been unable to recover from data breaches. In fact, some small hospitals have even had to shut down due to the costs incurred by cyberattacks.
The healthcare industry is catching up with others in its digital transformation efforts, but is still behind in how it protects infrastructure and data. So before a healthcare provider begins digitizing its systems and operations, it’s imperative that certain security measures are considered.
Implement Cloud Security Solutions
The healthcare cloud computing market in North America was worth $5.7 billion in 2017 and is expected to almost double to $10.2 billion by 2022. At an accelerated pace, healthcare providers are embracing cloud computing technologies, using them to help cut down operational expenses, speed up delivery of services while still providing high quality care, and boost patient engagement. Adopting a cloud computing solution has numerous advantages for the healthcare industry—but doing so without taking security precautions will result in setbacks.
To keep a cloud environment safe from data breaches and cyber attacks, healthcare providers should invest in cloud-to-cloud security solutions that will help them monitor the flow of data between on-premise and cloud ecosystems.
In addition to investments in security solutions, organizations need to encrypt all of their cloud-stored data. Better yet, they should use multiple encryption keys so that if one key is compromised, not all of the data is compromised. Virtual firewalls and other data analytics solutions are smart investments, too: They monitor cloud data traffic and protect health information against breaches, threats or security gaps.
Have Data Backup and Recovery Solutions in Place
For the healthcare industry, downtime can be deadly: If a natural disaster destroys a hospital’s data center, or a healthcare organization has a data breach due to a cyber attack, clinicians and physicians will not be able to access the information they need to treat patients. However, with data backup and recovery solutions in place, organizations can prevent these worst-case scenarios—or at the very least, reduce their effects.
Data backup solutions copy information to a separate location so that it always exists somewhere else. It sounds easy enough, but in the medical field, this process can be complicated by regulations: All sensitive data has to be protected and meet HIPAA regulations. Healthcare organizations should seek out vendors that offer HIPAA-compliant data backup solutions. Ideally, they should partner with one that will perform periodic audits of their solutions if and when federal regulators need proof of compliance.
But backup solutions alone will not reduce downtime in the event of an emergency. Organizations also need data recovery technologies to retrieve saved copies of data that will replace lost information. These solutions ensure that applications are brought back online seamlessly so consultations, medical procedures and appointments are never interrupted by an attack. Physicians and nurses can log into electronic health records, and they will look and feel exactly how they did before the event. But to be sure that the data recovery process will be executed correctly, it has to be tested regularly. Healthcare providers should partner with a solution that helps perform these assessments and works with end users to test recovery tools and applications regularly and report any inconsistencies or errors.
Invest in Data Loss Prevention Tools
In the healthcare industry, hospitals and healthcare organizations have to maintain compliance with numerous data security regulations. In addition to HIPAA, they must meet the requirements of HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) and PCI-DSS (the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). All three enforce the protection of patients’ personal health information (PHI) from being stolen by hackers or accidentally stored onto a physician’s personal device. To prevent misuse of PHI, healthcare organizations can use data loss prevention solutions to maintain the privacy and integrity of a hospital’s medical applications, data and other proprietary information. Unlike traditional data protection solutions like antiviruses and firewalls that are used to protect an institution’s overall network from intruders, these tools are designed to protect special categories of data. For example, they can provide insight into who has access to PHI and how it is being transferred and used by their employees.
Thus far, the healthcare industry has benefited from its digital transformation and will continue to do so with emerging innovations like telehealth. But for every technology added, security will be a concern. But with the right solutions and vendors, healthcare providers can be sure that their patients, infrastructure and data are always protected—no matter the scenario.