Cybersecurity as EMR Support

It’s no surprise that hacking is becoming a growing threat as our world becomes only more connected. Healthcare IT services simply cannot function in their current state without a comprehensive healthcare IT security system to back it up. And there is probably no field in more need of a cybersecurity overhaul than the healthcare sector.

First, there’s the frequency of attacks that makes EMR support via cybersecurity essential. In 2015, the healthcare industry was targeted by cyber attacks at a higher rate than any other sector with more than 100 million healthcare records being compromised as a result, according to a report published by IBM.  

Then consider that healthcare attacks are more costly than regular data breaches. The average cost per record breached in healthcare is $363, well over double the cost of the average $154 per record breached belonging to a company outside the healthcare industry. The cost per compromised record has recently risen to above $400 per record, showing that breaches are only becoming more expensive as time goes on.

On top of all this bad news, a recent survey showing healthcare at the bottom of the pack when compared to other companies in terms of data encryption, with only 31% of healthcare providers surveyed saying they use data encryption extensively, well below other industries like telecommunication (56%) and energy and utilities (48%).

The state of EMR provider cybersecurity is such that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force recently published a report claiming that the state of healthcare IT cybersecurity is in “critical condition.”

The health care system cannot deliver effective and safe care without deeper digital connectivity,” the report stated. “If the health care system is connected, but insecure, this connectivity could betray patient safety, subjecting them to unnecessary risk and forcing them to pay unaffordable personal costs. Our nation must find a way to prevent our patients from being forced to choose between connectivity and security.

While the total number of breaches did increase in 2016, the number of leaked records did show a decline as EMR services are finally catching up with modern cybersecurity.

The U.S. government, beyond looking into the issue with a specialized task force, has released several useful infographics and guidelines in order to help prepare EMR consulting services, but they’re going even further and looking at legislation to help protect smaller healthcare providers from attacks.

Having established that there is indeed a credible threat to healthcare IT services, and since there’s no way to escape the growing reliance we have on technology and digital services, the only way to prepare as an EMR consultant is to have the proper cybersecurity system in place.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to keep your data safe from breaches.

It Starts with Personnel

The biggest threat to your data is the human element. This is to say that your data is far more likely to be breached via a human error versus an attacker sitting at a computer and hacking their way through your online defences.

As EMR providers, it’s hugely important that you give your entire staff extensive training on how to deal with cybersecurity related issues, and to ensure that they are not vulnerable to being hacked and therefore leaving your EMR IT solutions equally at risk.

The guidelines provided by the HHS and a great many other resources can help you avoid this by giving you a basic outline of what your staff needs to know about cybersecurity when working.

And this is even more critical if your staff has the ability to access data remotely through private devices. Strict guidelines, governance structures, and monitoring needs to be in place to ensure that your system is not being left open to attack due to a mistake on an iPhone.

Consider the latest massive leak that spread ransomware across the world and was said to have been a result of a fake Gmail link. Or the Democratic National Committee hacking that was reportedly caused due to a typo and a password change. These are the types of mistakes to be on the lookout for and to train your staff to recognize and avoid. 

Invest in Security

It’s easy to become complacent and not bother with all the technical aspects. After all, you haven’t been hacked yet, so why would anyone target your EMR services? Certainly, there are bigger fish . . .

That kind of thinking is dangerous. Yes, cybersecurity and especially healthcare IT security can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult. But it’s also necessary.

Devoting too few resources to protecting against cyber attacks is a sure fire way to end up on the receiving end of a breach. And again, as outlined extensively above, not only is healthcare a prime target of hackers, but also one of the costlier industries when breached. So, think of cybersecurity as insurance. You wouldn’t drive your care without insurance because a) it’s illegal and b) on the off-chance that you do get into a car accident, you’d rather have that protection already in place rather than deal with potentially disastrous consequences.

Be up to date on all the latest ways that you can secure your data. It pays to be prepared.

Be One Step Ahead

Making the appropriate investments into cybersecurity and ensuring your staff know the proper protocols are great starts, but perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to healthcare IT cybersecurity is the tech itself.

In this virtual arms race, you cannot afford to be on last generation tech when the attackers will be running on the newest gadgets. Being aware of the technology landscape and taking advantage of all the tools available to you are great ways to provide internal EMR IT solutions and keep your records protected.

It is the nature of technology to be constantly improving, and with that in mind, you should always be on the lookout for different systems and products that will provide the maximum amount of security for your EMRs.

Consider shifting to a different, more secure hosting service if the one you currently have isn’t up to snuff in terms of security. Or perhaps a total overhaul and migration to the cloud is in order. Whatever the case may be, know that this is a fight you can’t win if you’re not totally prepared. And that means keeping up to date with all that’s going on in the healthcare IT sector.

There’s no time to be caught in the lurch. There’s too much money, time, and sensitive information at stake. Awareness is one of the best defences against cyber attacks, so make sure that you and all those within your company are knowledgeable, trained, have working cybersecurity tech and are operating on the latest versions of said tech.

Don’t Panic

While these aforementioned steps are by no means guaranteed to protect you in the event of an attack, they are great bulwarks that will strengthen your defences and will be far more likely to stop an attack than if they weren’t in place.

That said, another very important step to ensuring the best cybersecurity for EMR providers is to not panic. Things happen. Cyber defence is a huge first step, but knowing how to react to developing situations can be equally important. Keeping a cool head in the event of an attack and knowing how to respond – whether data was stolen or not – is another key pillar to keeping your healthcare service as problem-free as possible.

Yes, it’s a frightening world out there in the online realm, especially when you know there are a lot of would-be assailants gunning for your information. It is by no means a safe landscape for healthcare. But panicking and overreacting are not answers. They only create a deeper problem, one that cannot be so easily solved.

Instead, have a contingency plan. Be ready. Know what to do in the worst-case scenario. Having all these tools at your disposal alongside your preparedness for whatever may come will be a huge boon to your healthcare IT security and will imbue your company with confidence that you can handle it all.

Healthcare IT has never been more crucial or more difficult, but as EMR providers, it is absolutely necessary that the data containing reams of sensitive information are kept safe, secure and confidential. Following these fundamentals is a fantastic first step towards that goal.

And remember the overarching theme throughout this whole piece: preparedness. The number one priority is to do exactly what you’re doing right now: research, gain knowledge and put the proper measure in place to keep your data safe. So long as you stay up to date on all that you need to know about the right cybersecurity software for your company, highly trained personnel and have made the proper investment in cybersecurity, and hackers should be kept at bay.

Posted by mattmurren

Matt Murren is the CEO at True North ITG Inc. True North is well known IT Disaster Recovery and Healthcare IT Services provider.