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The Importance of Healthcare Cybersecurity 

Healthcare organizations continually face security threats and data breaches from various digital avenues that can put patient safety, health and privacy at risk. These threats are becoming more prevalent with the rising reliance on technology, including smartphones, tablets, apps, digital medical records and smart medical equipment.

Because so many day-to-day aspects of healthcare depend on software, it is critical that facilities know how common these attacks are and how their insecure systems may be contributing to the issue. We’ll analyze how to maintain healthcare cybersecurity as well as the benefits and challenges that come with implementing this practice. 

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to a strategy that focuses on protecting internet-connected networks, systems, data, programs and devices from criminal use or unauthorized access. This criminal use is also known as a cyberattack, digital attack or cyber threat, which targets software and computerized systems to access, change, destroy or steal sensitive information. Cybercriminals usually use the data they hack to extort money from users and businesses. Cybersecurity ensures integrity, confidentiality and continuity of information and prevents interruptions from ransomware — a type of malicious software — and other cybersecurity threats in healthcare. 

Implementing a strong, effective cybersecurity strategy can protect your organization against malicious attacks. This measure can be challenging to accomplish, however, due to there being almost double the number of devices than people worldwide. Additionally, many healthcare facilities and organizations rely entirely on technology to reduce paper usage and manual processes, which can make them more susceptible to these threats without the proper measures. 

While cybersecurity acts as a robust security measure against such malicious attacks on confidential data, such as protected health information (PHI), it can also prevent attackers from attempting to disrupt or disable an organization’s entire operation. 

02 Why Is Healthcare Cybersecurity Important

Why Is Healthcare Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is important in healthcare because the industry relies on keeping patient and provider information confidential to operate. According to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the HIPAA Privacy Rule, healthcare organizations are responsible for keeping PHI safe from unauthorized users and protecting the public’s health and well-being while providing high-quality care. Cybersecurity is part of complying with HIPAA regulations, particularly for organizations that use technology, software and mobile devices that contain patient data that may be hacked. 

Cyberattacks can lead to more problems than stolen patient data — they can directly impact patient health. More than 20% of healthcare organizations reported higher patient mortality rates after experiencing a cyberattack. Other consequences of these digital attacks include:

  • Delayed procedures 
  • Disrupted tests 
  • Longer patient stays

Of the healthcare facilities surveyed, 57% reported poor patient outcomes, such as increased complications from medical procedures, as a direct result of cyberattacks. 

Cyberattacks can also create high expenses for healthcare organizations. Healthcare data breaches have reached record-high costs, with an average of $10.1 million in financial damages. Since about one in three healthcare organizations worldwide reported getting hit by ransomware in 2020 alone, it’s safe to say cybersecurity is critical support for healthcare providers against these attacks. 

Establishing cybersecurity in healthcare that aligns with patient safety initiatives will help organizations protect confidential information. They can also ensure effective, high-quality care by mitigating and eliminating disruptions that could present a negative impact on clinical outcomes

Cybersecurity Challenges in Healthcare

There are many benefits of cybersecurity in healthcare, like keeping sensitive information protected, ensuring patients’ PHI is secure and preventing system interruptions that hinder care. Though the list of advantages goes on, there are also challenges to implementing robust cybersecurity measures in the healthcare industry. 

Vulnerability of Legacy Systems

One of the biggest challenges in healthcare is shifting existing systems to modernized technology that can reduce cybersecurity risks in healthcare while maximizing security and health outcomes. This change can be difficult for many healthcare providers, administrators, IT staff and patients who are used to their traditional system. 

However, outdated, insecure systems are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, such as malware and viruses, because they likely do not have the digital security tools to protect patient data against modern-day, innovative hackers. Tight budgets, compliance guarantees and upskilling costs are also reasons why some healthcare organizations may not upgrade their IT infrastructure.

Insecure Medical Devices and Equipment

Besides legacy systems, many healthcare facilities utilize connected medical devices to treat patients, which means secure access is vital. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities overlook this aspect, which can make them a target for a major cyberattack. A study showed that 88% of organizations that reported a data breach within the last two years claimed at least one connected device was a contributing factor in the cyberattack.

Insider Threats

Though many cybersecurity attacks are from outsiders, insiders can contribute to these attacks, whether intentionally or accidentally. In some cases, unhappy employees within an organization may steal sensitive patient information or disrupt the network. 

These insider attacks can occur when organizational leaders do not keep track of authorization or users accessing confidential data. Unintentional actions and human errors, such as clicking on an email containing a virus or mistyping information into electronic health records, can also contribute to these threats. 

5 Tips for Improving Cybersecurity in the Healthcare Industry

Every staff member should prioritize protecting their healthcare facility and patient data from cyberattacks. Let’s review the tips for avoiding cybersecurity issues in healthcare.

1. Educate Your Healthcare Staff

The first step to protecting your healthcare organization from a data breach is training and educating your staff on how to spot malicious behavior, suspicious links or inconsistencies that can violate HIPAA policies. Training your administrative front-desk employees to spot scams can limit the chance of experiencing a threat. 

2. Restrict Access to Sensitive Information

To minimize the risk to electronic health record data and PHI, your organization should only provide access to authorized users requiring sensitive patient information to provide care. All healthcare organizations should implement an access control system with authentications, robust password requirements and other technology to limit unwarranted access. Remind those who have access to be more mindful of keeping it safe.

3. Plan for Breaches While Preventing Them 

Many organizations may think a data breach or malicious attack could never happen to them. Overcoming this mindset and being prepared for security breaches is critical. It encourages healthcare facilities to have a responsible and appropriate plan in place if a cyberattack occurs. Preparing employees with a comprehensive response strategy and recovery plan can potentially help your organization recover lost data, inform those affected and resume operations more efficiently. 

4. Conduct Regular Cybersecurity Risk Assessments and Audits 

No healthcare facility or system is the same, so it is critical to perform regular security risk assessments of your cybersecurity program to identify any gaps in your software. These assessments help your organization understand how to better allocate your resources to prevent data breaches and the downtime associated with them. Cybersecurity audits can also show your patients that you’re committed to preserving and protecting their sensitive information.

5. Integrate Your Existing System With a Unified Healthcare Solution

If your healthcare legacy system works well for your organization but lacks the features to help you uphold compliance and have better security, consider a new solution. This doesn’t mean you need to install an entirely new system that is time-consuming to learn. 

With Millennia, you can access digital products that integrate with your current system, providing your healthcare facility with a modern, end-to-end platform for the non-clinical side of patient needs, including keeping data safe. At Millennia, our three goals are to build digital engagement, increase revenue for providers and generate improved patient journeys — all while helping you meet HIPAA compliance regulations and protecting your patient’s PHI. 

03 Millennia Can Benefit Your Patients And Your Organization Rev05

Millennia Can Benefit Your Patients and
Your Organization

Whether you work in a hospital, medical group, private practice or post-acute care facility, patient security should be one of your top priorities. It is our mission to help healthcare organizations improve patient satisfaction while making it easier for administrative staff to keep PHI secure. Our Pre-arrival Module  solution helps you improve patient usability, benefit and engagement with features like consents with digital signature, custom appointment rules and compliant automated and on-demand texts.

Millennia Patient Payment Solution  helps healthcare businesses like yours increase revenue with secure payment methods and plans, automated account validation, robotic process automation and research teams to help minimize risks. You can access both of these solutions in Millennia Patient Payment Solution, giving your healthcare facility the support to make patient journeys more convenient, secure and efficient. Request a consultation today to see how Millennia can help your organization.