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    Why Healthcare Providers Need to Protect Against Cybersecurity Threats

    Protect Against Cybersecurity Threats

    The convenience and reliability of technology is undeniable, and our dependence upon it continues to grow. Technology has also completely revolutionized the way we conduct business, both on a large and small scale. It has been incorporated in-house between employees and departments, and serves to provide tools and access to consumers and patients. As a head of a healthcare organization, you know that the healthcare industry is a leader in both the development and the utilization of technology.

    So, what happens when this wonderful tool is used as a weapon against the very businesses and consumers who rely upon it? After all, the healthcare industry can only operate smoothly when healthcare providers, staff, and their patients can easily access vital personal information. While there are many benefits to utilizing technology for this reason, information must be accessed safely and correctly.

    Why Is It Necessary to Protect From Cyber Threats?

    Protecting against cyber threats means preventing individuals and groups from accessing your business’s and patients’ records. When your business information falls into the wrong hands, outside individuals can disrupt your operations, steal your financial information, steal patients’ financial or personal information, or even infiltrate your communications systems to solicit money or information from patients directly. This scenario can not only harm your healthcare business’s bottom line and put your patients at risk, but it can also destroy your organization’s reputation.

    Cyberattacks can happen in a matter of seconds, leaving valuable personal, financial, or organizational information vulnerable to those who may use it for malicious purposes. Once a technology system has been corrupted, it is often already too late to react. Having protective measures in place is the best way to prevent a cyberattack from affecting your patients, your finances, and your healthcare business’s reputation.

    Why Is Healthcare Particularly Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?

    Healthcare Particularly Vulnerable to Cyber Attack

    Far too many business owners are simply unaware of how common and serious cyber threats can be. However, at any given time, any business is at risk of a ransomware, malware, virus, or data breach. There is an increased risk of these cyber threats for certain businesses based on their vertical nature and their vulnerability factor.

    A vertical market refers to niche businesses or vendors that cater to a specific set of clients and their unique needs. Certain verticals are more attractive to hackers because they are well aware of the volume and type of valuable information these businesses store, and healthcare providers are high on that list.

    Vulnerability factors can vary, depending on how much effort your business puts into protecting itself. Having a weak defense can leave your healthcare business as a prime target for hackers who are seeking to gain valuable personal and financial information for a large group of individuals.

    In both regards, healthcare is especially vulnerable because of the detailed personal, financial, and insurance information that must be stored and often shared within a system of departments to ensure patients receive the care they need. Patient records are often kept for years and share information that, when compromised, could seriously affect a person’s life. Vulnerable aspects of the healthcare business include:

    • Electronic health records
    • Remote patient monitoring devices
    • Electronic prescription systems
    • Practice management systems
    • Payment systems

    With so much at stake, healthcare businesses must be especially vigilant about protecting against cyber threats. While those in the healthcare field can’t decrease their services or alter the way they connect with their patients, they can increase their defense to address vulnerabilities.

    How Do Cyber Threats Affect Healthcare Patients?

    The healthcare industry is in a uniquely vulnerable position when it comes to cyber-attacks due to the intimate connection it shares with patients. A cyber-attack could leave a medical provider unable to access medical records and the vital devices that directly impact patient care. The inability to access information on-demand, or to secure necessary treatment or medication could be life-threatening. In this way, cyber threats compromise a patient’s personal safety.

    Hackers can also obtain highly sensitive patient identity or financial information that could be sold on the dark web or used as leverage to demand money. This can endanger your patients’ financial security. When it comes to protecting your patients’ information, safeguarding your healthcare business’s systems is a primary battle you absolutely must win.

    What Mistakes Could Healthcare Pros Be Making?

    Healthcare businesses that find themselves under cyber-attack are often making one or more key mistakes.

    Failure to Invest in Security

    Making sound financial decisions is a key factor in the overall success of your healthcare business. You are charged with deciding how to allocate funds for the growth and continued success of your business. Unfortunately, a common mistake is overlooking the value of investing in quality security against cyber threats. Your IT budget can be pulled in many different directions, including marketing, sales, applications, accessibility, and more. Failure to invest in protecting your tools, services, and information systems could leave you vulnerable to cyber-attacks, negating the positive impact of the sound financial decisions you’ve made.

    Improper Training

    Even though most individuals today are tech savvy, that doesn’t mean that they fully understand technological security without training. For that reason, a significant weakness for your healthcare business can be your employees. Your employees must receive continuous cybersecurity training, as hackers and other cyber security threats are constantly adapting to find new and creative ways to access information. Your employees need to be just as aware and diligent as you are.

    It’s critical to know that today’s cyber security involves much more than firewalls and antivirus software. Training regarding proper information security is essential to keep your business protected. Inform employees that simply clicking on the wrong email or using an unsecured channel to share information can leave your entire business vulnerable. Unknowingly interacting with malicious individuals can allow them to bypass your defenses with ease, leaving you and your patients vulnerable.

    Underestimating the Extent of Potential Damage

    Not fully understanding how serious a cyber-attack truly is can put your healthcare business at risk. A serious cyberattack could leave a small business bankrupt. Data breaches and other similar attacks can be nearly impossible to combat and can quickly drain accounts in the process.

    Worse, a data breach of any kind can affect all aspects of your business. Not only does compromising patient information affect your legal and financial status, but your customer satisfaction, loyalty, and brand name are tarnished as a result. As a healthcare provider, you rely on the trust and satisfaction of your customers to return to your office seeking care and to suggest your office to others. Diminished standing among your patient base can do serious damage to your bottom line.

    How Can Healthcare Organizations Prevent Cyber Attacks?

    Prevent Cyber Attacks

    There are numerous ways healthcare organizations can prevent cyberattacks. True prevention starts at the top, as you build the realization of how serious these threats are and how damaging they can be. Once you’re aware your business is at risk, you can ensure that proper training will take place on a regular basis. You can also ensure you make a sound investment in technological security as a vital component of your IT budget.

    Employee Training and Participation

    As mentioned, employees play a significant role in the prevention of cyber-attacks. Healthcare businesses must invest in the right technology, security protocols, and training to ensure all employees are equipped to understand and properly react to various hacking attempts. Employees must also understand the importance of being proactive in protecting the information of patients, other staff members, and the business itself.

    Ongoing training ensures that employees remain aware of what to watch for and to whom they should report any questionable information. Since many data breaches begin with something seemingly innocent, such as an email that appears to be coming from a coworker or boss, it is especially important to train employees regarding what to expect from intra-organizational emails. In addition, staff should recognize that the email address could mimic the same formatting structures that your employees are used to seeing. They must also be aware of the types of information that will never be requested for sharing on such a vulnerable platform.

    Invest in Healthcare IT

    As a healthcare business leader, you can choose to hire your own staff or outsource to a healthcare IT service. When working with your own IT department, ensure that those staff members receive ongoing, up-to-date training to stay on top of the rapidly changing techniques used by hackers. They should also be knowledgeable regarding how to use firewalls and maintain antivirus protocols. IT should also maintain safe computer habits, change passwords regularly, limit access to the most valuable information, and adhere to strict protocols that ensure safety.

    Outsourcing to a company such as Healthcare ITSM is another option for bolstering your cyber security. Outsourcing can be a cost-effective solution in the sense that you are getting a workforce that is up to date on the latest technology and has the experience that is specifically tailored to your unique needs as a healthcare provider. Working with an experienced company can ensure that there are no gaps in understanding the best security system for your business and patients.

    Protect Patients and Business From Cyber Threats

    It is crucial to protect your healthcare business against cyber threats because lives are at stake. Your patients rely on your use of technology to stay physically and financially healthy. Unfortunately, a breach could have significant, long-lasting impacts on your patients and your business alike. Protection is key to ensuring the security of your patients, as well as protecting your healthcare office from serious harm. Employing proper training, the safe use of technology, and a solid IT solution can reduce your vulnerability.

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