For a sector that has traditionally lagged behind its peers, the healthcare sector is leading the way in cloud computing adoption. As per the West Monroe Partners study, 35% of healthcare facilities surveyed stored more than 50% of their records or infrastructural facilities in the cloud.
While compared to other sectors, healthcare has proven to be one of the furthest along with cloud infrastructure adoption. For example, in comparison, 31% of energy and utility companies and 18% of financial services companies used the cloud to store 50 percent of company data or infrastructure.
Healthcare organizations face more significant risks compared to other businesses when it comes to data breaches and additional privacy and cloud security concerns. For example, patients and practitioners exchange personal information, such as contact information, for mutual benefits gained through collaboration, making them susceptible to data breach risks.
Cloud hosting has been widely adopted by businesses worldwide, and adoption rates in the healthcare industry have been high compared to most sectors. Healthcare CIOs and other senior HIT executives are responsible for securing and protecting patient data, adhering to HIPAA regulations, and leveraging technological innovations to reduce costs and improve performance. As a result of the high level of regulations, there is a risk-averse technology culture in some portions of the healthcare industry that rewards the status quo and slows progress.
Following best practices in healthcare cloud computing is your roadmap to reaping all of the benefits of the cloud while ensuring HIPAA compliant cloud hosting and adhering to the highest data security standards.
Because cybersecurity threats are evolving rapidly in the healthcare industry, a multi-faceted and sophisticated approach should be implemented to protect customer data. Following these best practices could help healthcare businesses keep potential security and compliance threats at bay:
1. Conduct Cloud Compliance Training for Healthcare Personnel
When it comes to privacy incidents, there will usually be an apparent human element at work. Unfortunately, incidents like these are typical in the healthcare industry. Staff cybersecurity training provides your staff with the knowledge they need to handle patient data appropriately, and it will also prevent them from making rash decisions that jeopardize the business's security while also making your staff aware of common and uncommon mistakes made by employees that they might not think of otherwise.
2. Implement Data and Application Access Controls
Restriction of access to sensitive patient data and critical applications strengthens healthcare cybersecurity even further. User-based access controls make sure that only people who are allowed to see certain data can actually view it. They have permission because they need the information to do their job.
Multi-factor authentication methods such as secure PIN or password, security key, fingerprints, or eye scanning in tangent to username and passwords may be used to ensure that the person trying to access does indeed have permission to access critical applications and user data.
3. Establish Data Usage Controls
Healthcare organizations can keep their data safe by setting up rules for how people use it. This helps to stop bad things from happening right away. Specific delicate data-related activities should be prohibited, like uploading to the web, copying data to external sources, and sending unapproved emails.
4. Log and Monitor Data Usage and Access
By logging and monitoring access and data usage, IT managers can determine all information and details accessed or which applications and resources were used across the organization. Most IT Managers will preset thresholds for alerting of such activity since it is not possible with today’s workloads to have a single human being able to review server logs of activity.
This aids in the detection of suspicious activities and the implementation of security controls where necessary.When there is a security problem, healthcare organizations will find out exactly where the problem is coming from. They will also look for ways to fix it and stop it from happening again.
5. Whenever Possible, Encrypt Data
Encryption is without a doubt one of the most critical security measures in healthcare organizations. Encryption is a way of keeping data secure. Even if hackers get access to the files, they can't use the information unless they know how to decrypt it. HIPAA advises healthcare organizations to implement stringent data encryption strategies based on data flow within the organization.
6. Pay Attention to Mobile Device Security
Recently, there has been an increase in the use of cell phones and other mobile devices for healthcare. Many companies have created apps that doctors and patients can use. Healthcare workers use patient records to give patients the best care. Government officials can use the records to help people get medical insurance. It is critical to safeguard the security of such portable devices, i.e., mobile devices.
A few practices to assure mobile device security inside the healthcare industry include:
- Using complex passwords and multi-factor authentication
- The ability to track, lock, and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices
- Encrypting data in transit, data at rest, and live stored data
- Monitoring device health to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited and ensuring devices are patched and updated as much as possible
7. Eliminate the Risk of Connected Devices
Connected devices have become extremely common because of the rapid development of technologies like IoT and AI. The healthcare industry has many different types of machines that are connected to the internet and store patient information. Here are some safety precautions that should be put in place to eliminate risks in devices like these.
- Install security patches and keep your connected devices updated.
- Decommission any unsupported or end-of-life devices immediately.
- Set up a multifactor authentication system for any user access to devices.
- Before using the devices, turn off any features you don't need. Only collect the data you really want. Make sure that any saved data is safe from people who should not have access to it.
- Keep an eye on access attempts and usage to spot any suspicious activity.
- If it is possible, keep separate networks for your Internet of Things (IoT) devices and any important data. This will help protect the data if an IoT device is hacked or compromised.
8. Perform Vulnerability Assessments Regularly
A critical part of a proactive security strategy is performing vulnerability assessments regularly. Assessments like these will help identify where the company’s infrastructure is weak; they will also highlight where employees and vendors lack security readiness.
Healthcare organizations can check for possible security threats ahead of time and fix them before they cause trouble. This is called a vulnerability assessment and it can help avoid costly data breaches.
It is a good idea to do a vulnerability assessment every two weeks. This will help you find new problems with your system quickly so that you can fix them as soon as possible.
9. Back-Up Sensitive Data Securely
Data breaches in the healthcare sector pose a significant threat as they can expose sensitive patient information and compromise the integrity and availability of data stored within healthcare systems. These breaches occur when unauthorized individuals gain access to confidential data, such as medical records, personal details, or financial information.
The repercussions of such breaches are far-reaching, as they not only violate patient privacy but also put their well-being at risk. It is important for healthcare organizations to use digital security so they can protect patient information and keep people's trust. This is especially true now that more and more records are stored electronically.
Therefore, backups of patient data are essential for healthcare organizations because they can't afford to lose their most important asset.
Offsite backups of data should be made to protect the data currently in use as a minimum level of redundancy. Additional security measures such as encryption and access controls will help add extra layers of protection. Apart from addressing cybersecurity concerns, data backups will be beneficial in disaster recovery for an organization.
If your healthcare organization uses important servers, it is a good idea to back up your data in more than one place. This way, if something bad happens at one location, you have a backup plan. Data availability is the cornerstone of HIPAA compliance, so ensuring that data is available to the level of your business requirements is critical.
According to various security experts, these data breaches in the healthcare industry will continue happening. In addition, the use of mobile and cloud platforms in the healthcare industry will make it more vulnerable to extruder attacks. Therefore, we must be aware of all risks to navigate potential data privacy and security threats in the healthcare industry.