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Cybersecurity Challenges in Healthcare Data Management

Cybersecurity has become the topmost priority for many industries. Among those, it is more crucial for the healthcare industry which demands higher accuracy at all times and can have severe effects when affected. Many healthcare organizations have taken technology as an ally and have created numerous beneficial applications. However, this digitization has left the industry prone to numerous cyber attacks as the systems now deal with a lot of digital data/information.

Healthcare systems such as EHR systems, e-prescribing systems, practice management support systems, clinical decision support systems, radiology information systems, and any more are some of the primary examples of the various specialized hospital information systems that can be compromised by attackers.

Healthcare Data Management is among the information systems that call for high accuracy when dealing with patients’ data. It is the practice of acquiring, examining, and maintaining records of patients to offer quality treatment and other healthcare-related services to the end-users. Health Data Management makes sense of the user data and manages it to the benefit of healthcare organizations, practitioners, and patient health and well-being. Hence, it is imperative for healthcare organizations to safeguard this data for the continued welfare of the patients and ongoing medical processes.

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However, managing and safeguarding it is not that easy. Last year, more than 40% of health care organizations experienced a cyber attack involving the “WannaCry” ransomware. One of the most seriously impacted victims of the WannaCry ransomware attack was the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK where some hospitals were forced to cancel outpatient appointments. Going ahead, healthcare organizations must stay at the forefront of safeguarding their and patients’ data and understand what are the challenges that govern data security practices.

Cybersecurity and Healthcare

Healthcare institutions collectively hold huge amounts of highly sensitive information. This information comes from a wide population and even contains crucial financial data. And according to reports, while other industries have taken a stance in detecting and counter-attacking cyber threats, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt cybersecurity, and attackers have shifted their focus to the less protective healthcare sector. In 2017, the total number of healthcare breaches mounted to 477, affecting 5.6 million patient records. Many healthcare organizations also have low budgets and even smaller teams catering to the cybersecurity landscape. As a result, many healthcare personnel remains unaware of the risks of data breaches.

As healthcare organizations embrace new technologies and create new areas of growth, it is the role of Chief Information Officers to create an IT infrastructure capable of mitigating threats and have backup plans to ensure the data is available when needed.

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Challenges in Healthcare Data Management

Internal Threats

One of the most prominent cases of data breaches is due to human or user error. Verizon’s 2019 DBIR lists that around 59% of all healthcare security breaches were caused by trusted insiders. Users unwillingly can open the backdoor access to their data while accessing lab work from the provider’s portal over an unprotected network, emailing sensitive information, or by uploading/downloading unencrypted data over the cloud. It should also be noted that while healthcare providers are bound by HIPAA regulations, users don’t come much under that radar. Hence, it is advisable for users to follow the best practices of safeguarding their data, paying attention to what and where they are disseminating their data, and use strong encryption wherever possible.

Adoption of Cloud and Mobile

Recent changes in time, like that of the coronavirus pandemic, has forced people to maintain distance from each other and complete their tasks remotely. As such, remote/distance healthcare solutions via healthcare mobile apps, video conferencing, messaging have seen stunning growth. According to AHA, 76% of US hospitals connect patients and consulting practitioners using video or some other digital technology. This growth has also opened various avenues for attackers to sneak and take away precious data/information. While healthcare providers can easily encrypt data over the cloud, it could be quite difficult to cover it on the on-premise/user applications. Consequently, healthcare providers must stay vigilant with their security and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to ensure their use of cloud and mobile tech isn’t violating HIPAA.

Outdated Technology

Industries such as Healthcare where accurate and precise information is always needed cannot afford to have a meltdown. Oftentimes, in terms of stability, the systems are refrain from continuous upgrades. While such systems provide reliability and stability, outdated software and infrastructure posses a major data security risk as vendors discontinue support for your IT systems, including vital security patches. A report from Unit 42 states that around 98% of IoT devices are unencrypted and unsecured, capable of exposing confidential data of healthcare organizations. Many healthcare providers are still working with outdated systems are struggling to incorporate the latest inventions into their practices. They must watch out for the compromising systems and devices which can provide access to unauthorized parties.

Read More: HelpSystems Acquires Digital Defense to Enhance Cybersecurity Portfolio

Healthcare providers must keep abreast of the latest threats, addressing chokepoints on privacy, data, and cloud alongside safeguarding data in rest, transit, and in use. And to stay in line with the latest developments and data security, novel IT solutions must be developed in the healthcare industry. They should also be used in accordance with the compliance matching data privacy and security. Adequate data security strategies, solutions, and policies will enable healthcare organizations to comply with monitoring and reporting regulations and share data securely, both inside and outside the medical facility.

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