Ways to Prevent Data Breaches in Healthcare

August 15, 2023

The healthcare industry has become a common target for cybersecurity attacks and data breaches in recent years. Every day, increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks exploit fragmented infrastructures comprising legacy systems and applications along with network-connected medical devices. A well-executed attack could disrupt patient care, leak sensitive healthcare data, sabotage the business’ reputation, and negatively impact the organization’s market value.

Investing in cybersecurity can result in risk reduction and is an effective strategy in today’s continually evolving threat and regulatory compliance landscape. Critical stakeholders in healthcare organizations, both large and small, must play a crucial role in adopting and managing this approach. However, most senior leadership teams need a greater understanding of the prevailing cybersecurity issues, the importance of informed governance, and the quality and regularity of reporting from management.

You may like to read our blog on how cyber-savvy leaders can enhance cybersecurity and healthcare outcomes.

How to Tackle Cyber-risk in Healthcare

Organizations must adopt an advanced and comprehensive cybersecurity framework to significantly improve cyber-related risk management. Putting a framework in place will provide a common language and structure for the organization. It will help the organization better understand the risks involved. It will also help understand the tools and methods that can be used to manage the risk at a level that is best suited not just for the organization but for other stakeholders as well, such as customers, business partners, and industry and government regulatory bodies.

Steps to Prevent Healthcare Data Breaches

In addition, there are a host of steps to be taken to tighten up all the systems and prevent security breaches.

Conduct Current Security Risk Analysis

Organizations need to make security audits and assessments their top priority as well as an essential process conducted on a regular basis. Cybersecurity challenges are continually changing and adapting; keeping this in mind, healthcare institutions need to ensure that security audits are being carried out without simplifying or skipping them.

Put an Incident Response Plan in Place

Create and deploy a response plan to protect the organization and its data in the event of a data breach. The plan must outline the necessary decisions to be taken and the follow-up measures that need to be put in place. The process of incident response planning begins by defining the problem, assessing the risks and vulnerabilities that could potentially cripple the organization, building a resilience framework, allocating organizational responsibilities, identifying the resources required to support response activities, and developing a plan of action. Trained users can test out the plan, followed by implementing incident response containment measures.

Create Subnetworks and Limit Personal Device Usage

Consider splitting the wireless network into distinct subnetworks for each user group, like patients, personnel, medical devices, and visitors. All critical patient information should circulate within a highly secure network.

Even healthcare professionals must be provided with a complete understanding of which devices they can use outside and within the network. This can help reduce the ways in which malware can enter the system and make it vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Update the Software Regularly

Financially motivated hackers are constantly looking for ways to penetrate an organization’s systems and access sensitive data that can be sold for a high amount of money. Regularly update the software to help draw out any bugs in the system and considerably lower the risk of cyberattacks.

Educate, Train, and Invest in the Workforce

Ensure the team completely understands the terrible consequences of a data breach. They also need to be educated on the types of data breaches that can occur and the measures that can be taken to prevent a cyber threat or address the breach if and when it occurs.

Allocate a Budget that will Fuel the IT and Legal Team

Dedicate a better annual budget toward cybersecurity as opposed to most healthcare organizations allocating a small budget. Depending on the size of the institution, spend anywhere from a high single-digit to a low double-digit percentage on cybersecurity.

With the various technological advancements and the rise of unethical hackers driven by financial gain, cybersecurity investments need to increase in order to protect sensitive patient and staff data and continue critical business operations. Businesses must defend against attacks on their databases, networks, and endpoints. Stakeholders need to invest in tools dealing with network security, identity, application security, and SecOps.

In addition to healthcare organizations dealing with threats from within, they must also efficiently deal with pressure from legal and government bodies. They need to comply with a broad range of set industry standards. Adherence to these standards, such as HIPAA, ISO 27001, and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Cybersecurity Framework, helps foster a secure and trustable healthcare ecosystem.

Meticulously Review Service-level Agreements

Make certain that any third-party vendor that requires access to patient data complies with regulatory authorities like HIPAA. Have your legal team examine the agreements to make sure the healthcare organization is the only owner of the data and possesses the ability to instantly deny access upon contract termination.

With cybersecurity threats to the healthcare industry poised to surpass last year’s total, having a strong SCI (Security, Compliance, Integrity) posture will ensure your organization’s preparedness to handle threats proactively.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *