Healthcare sector is supremely vulnerable to data breaches and this is now a fact. Want proof….? Just go for Google search and you’ll find n number of media articles related to this fact. Hence, all this proves one point and that is healthcare sector is uniquely vulnerable to privacy breaches for reasons lined up below
- Healthcare data contains valuable information such as social security numbers and home addresses and thus can prove worthy to hackers than other types of data. This data is on great demand in the black market, and so it gives value to the energy invested by the hacker on this task.
- Health care sector is getting integrated day by day and so medical data is now being shared with many different types of entities in which many employees have access to patient records. Extended access to medical records increases the potential for privacy breaches.
- Medical info is stored for many years by health care organizations and that is to comply with legal requirements. So, according to storage volume and duration the probability and consequences of data breach increases.
- Government incentives led health care organizations to adopt electronic health records without being ready to adequately investing in data security technologies.
- As data breaches have very little effect on revenue stream of healthcare sector, there is a general assumption by health care organizations that investment on digital security and patient privacy can be reduced to minimized scale. But this assumption is false as new types of cyber attacks; specifically ransomware attacks have the potential to paralyze a health care business once and for all.
- While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is clear about the requirement to protect health data, it does not specify how to do so and so is wide open to interpretation.
- NOTE-HIPAA is also outdated and falls short of addressing modern cyber security challenges.
So, how to deal with the situation?
Healthcare organizations can isolate themselves from data breaches in the following way
- Prioritize patient privacy and use available resources to protect it- Nowadays; media has been so active on giving an update on data breach stories that its activity has made health care organizations wake up on time. As these organizations are having access to both knowledge and technology, they are taking good care to ensure the privacy of their patients through various resources.
- Communication is important-Information sharing about security technologies, privacy policies, and breach incidents should take place among health care organizations and also between health care organizations and federal agencies. Health care organizations should be encouraged to use the full potential of currently available platforms to better share information amongst themselves.
- Cyber insurance can prove effective- Cyber insurance can play a fundamental role in improving patient privacy. To under write the threats from data breaches, cyber insurance companies can conduct timely and efficient audits and proactively manage their clients’ privacy protection efforts. This helps health care organizations in two ways- One is that they can know their in-house security weaknesses and act on time to prevent data breaches. Second is that by addressing those security weaknesses in time, companies can also get a direct economic incentive on reduced cyber insurance premiums.
- Better communicate the details of breach incident audits on time- In case a data breach occurs, a through investigation has to be done and the report must be created. The report must include that the point that best preventive policies are now in place to avoid future incidents.
- A Universal HIPAA certification system-Although the audits that happen after a breach effectively reduce the chances of second incidents, they cannot prevent privacy breaches in the first place. Random audits that take place before a breach occurs will be helpful in preventing one. These random audits are currently conducted very rarely. An Office of Civil Act (OCR) should accredit certification agencies that can conduct preventive audits in accordance with OCR standards and certify the compliant organizations.
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