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Why the State of Healthcare Data Security Has Security Experts on Edge

September 14, 2017

Why the State of Healthcare Data Security Has Security Experts on Edge

Healthcare is undoubtedly one of the industries that has been impacted the most by the boom in networked communications and remote data storage over the past decade. The days of filing cabinets filled with paper patient charts have given way to massive digital repositories of patient data. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout hospitals and clinics manage patient information through electronic health records that, ideally, make sure everyone who interacts with a patient is on the same page. Proponents say that these innovations are already bringing us a more effective, more efficient, and more personalized healthcare landscape.

But the news is not all good when it comes to the state of healthcare technology.

Data security has been a perennial thorn in the side of the healthcare world, and the situation isn’t getting any better. Data breaches are on the rise. According to an article at SecurityIntelligence.com, a recent study found that 89 percent of all healthcare enterprises had experienced a data breach within the last two years, and, in many of those enterprises, IT security still wasn’t being treated as a priority.

So why is the healthcare world in particular stressing out security experts? And what does that mean for hospitals and security solution providers? Let’s explore.

The Incomparable Value of Healthcare Data

Of the many different types of data stored online, healthcare data are some of the most personal, which is no doubt why they are such an attractive target. It provides a veritable mountain of information about individuals, even beyond just payment data.

When someone visits a healthcare professional, they reveal illnesses and family histories of health conditions. In the course of their treatment, they are prescribed medications and have blood work done. All of this information is logged and stored on computer systems, coded, and shared with different institutions for the purposes of both treatment and insurance.

This type of data, when stolen, can be used for simple financial fraud, as well as purposes far beyond it. Hackers can use highly specific personal information about medical conditions in order to target phishing and phone scams at people, acting as a sort of verification to lure people in. If a person has a particularly embarrassing condition, hackers can theoretically use information about it for the purpose of blackmail. Beyond those unnerving possibilities, everything from payment information to potential passwords exists in the digital archives of healthcare providers. That’s information that hackers can do a lot with, and at every point where these data exist, they’re potentially vulnerable.

Institutional Mindsets and Dropping the Security Ball

So why aren’t healthcare providers doubling down on their commitments to security? One possible answer is that, in a fast-paced healthcare environment where lives are often at stake, meeting immediate technical needs will naturally be seen as more valuable than what is perceived as the distant threat of a data breach. It’s also possible that administrators, or those in charge of funding IT, simply don’t have enough of a technical understanding of data security to be able to make sense of, and account for, the risks. But the dangers, even on systems believed to be secure, may be bigger than what non-technical staff might appreciate.

The Costs of Healthcare Data Insecurity

Healthcare providers, clinics, and other enterprises face significant damages, financially and in terms of reputation, from data breaches. Impacted consumers have begun to file lawsuits for such breaches. On top of that, providers are subject to very expensive fines over data breaches from government regulatory agencies that mandate and enforce data privacy for personal health information.  

You Can Help Make Healthcare Data Secure

Guiding your healthcare clients through an audit of their existing systems in order to find and close security holes, setting best practices for IT, and making sure that the most effective network monitoring tools are in place and maintained by skilled professionals are all key to keeping healthcare environments cybersecure.

Healthcare data are only becoming more important to the lives of people nationwide. Hackers know that. By facilitating appropriate cybersecurity in healthcare enterprises, you can make sure that people can benefit from all the new world of tech-enabled healthcare has to offer without having to trade away their sense of personal security.

How are your healthcare clients hardening their networks against hackers?