Tips for Securing Private Health Data in Healthcare Cyber security
Data security in the healthcare industry is a difficult task. Healthcare providers and their business associates must strike a balance between safeguarding patient privacy and providing high-quality care while adhering to HIPAA and other rules, such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Because protected health information (PHI) is among an individual's most sensitive (and valuable) private data, the guidelines for healthcare providers and other organizations that handle, use, or transmit patient information include stringent data protection requirements that are accompanied by stiff penalties and fines if they aren't followed.
Rather than requiring the use of specific technologies, HIPAA requires covered entities to ensure that patient information is secure, accessible only to authorised individuals, and used only for authorised purposes; however, it is up to each covered entity to decide what security measures to use to achieve these goals.
Healthcare businesses that adopt a proactive approach to implementing best practises for healthcare security are better positioned for continuing compliance and have a lower risk of experiencing costly data breaches as a result of increased regulatory requirements for healthcare data protection. We'll go over ten data security best practises for healthcare in this tutorial.
- Limiting Access to Data and Applications Educating Healthcare Personnel
- Putting Data Usage Controls in Place
- Use Logging and Monitoring
- Data Encryption
- Keeping Mobile Devices Safe
- Managing the Risks of Connected Devices
- Performing Risk Assessments on a Regular Basis
- Off-Site Data Backup is a method of backing up data that is stored off-site.
- Examining the Compliance of Business Associates with Care
Let's take a look at the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and how these 10 best practises can assist healthcare businesses stay compliant while safeguarding sensitive health data.
Privacy and Security Requirements of HIPAA
HIPAA regulations have the greatest impact on healthcare providers in the United States, while other legislation, such as the upcoming GDPR, and have a global impact. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers and business partners to stay current on the newest requirements and to choose vendors and business associates who are also in compliance with these regulations. HIPAA has two important components that deal with the safeguarding of health-care data:
The HIPAA Security Rule focuses on ensuring the security of electronic personal health information created, used, received, and maintained by HIPAA-covered businesses. The Security Rule establishes administrative, physical, and technical norms and requirements for the handling of personal health information.The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires protections to preserve the privacy of personal health information, such as medical records, insurance information, and other confidential information. Without prior patient agreement, the Privacy Rule restricts what information can be used (and in what ways) and released to third parties.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies primarily to operational settings, prohibiting providers and their business associates from utilising a patient's PHI in ways that the patient has not previously authorised and limiting the information that can be shared with other entities without prior agreement. The HIPAA Security Rule is mainly concerned with the technical aspects of protecting personal health information, and it establishes standards and regulations for how health information should be protected in order to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of healthcare data.
An Increase in EHR Use Raises the Risk of Healthcare Breaches and Data Breaches.
HIPAA-covered companies and their business affiliates continued to report large numbers of healthcare data breaches. In July, 70 data breaches of 500 or more records were disclosed, making it the sixth month in a row that data breaches were reported at a rate of two or more per day. Between the beginning of August 2020 and the end of July 2021, there were 706 documented healthcare data breaches involving 500 or more records, exposing or compromising the personal information of 44,369,781 people. That's a monthly average of 58.8 data breaches and 3.70 million records!
Healthcare organisations and business associates must employ comprehensive security measures to safeguard patient data from a growing number and diversity of threats in order to appropriately secure data from hackers. Wireless network vulnerabilities, for example, provide a simple entry point for hackers, despite the fact that these networks are vital to healthcare companies, making it easier to access patient information and enhance care delivery.
How Can Healthcare Data Be Protected?
These healthcare cyber security best practises are designed to stay up with the changing threats. These are done by addressing risks to privacy and data protection on endpoints and in the cloud, as well as protecting data in transit, at rest, and in use. This needs a multifaceted and smart security strategy.
Inform Healthcare Employees
The human factor remains one of the most serious security hazards in all businesses, but especially in healthcare. For healthcare companies, simple human mistake or neglect may have severe and costly effects. Security awareness training provides healthcare workers with the information they need to make informed decisions and exercise proper caution while managing patient data.
Restrict Data and Application Access
By restricting access to patient information and particular programmes to just those people who need it to do their jobs, access controls improve healthcare data security. User authentication is required for access limitations, ensuring that only authorised users have access to sensitive data. A preferred option is multi-factor authentication, which requires users to verify that they are the person allowed to access particular data and apps using two or more validation methods, such as:
- Passwords and PIN numbers are examples of information that is only known by the user.
- Something that only the authorised person has, such a card or a key
- Biometrics, for example, are something unique to the authorised user (facial recognition, fingerprints, eye scanning)
Implement Data Use Controls
Protective data restrictions go beyond access controls and monitoring to guarantee that potentially harmful or malicious data activity is reported and/or stopped in real time. Data controls can be used by healthcare companies to prevent sensitive data from being uploaded to the internet, sent via unlawful email, copied to external storage, or printed. Data discovery and categorization are critical components of this process because they allow sensitive data to be recognised and marked for the appropriate level of security.
Record and Monitor Your Use
All access and usage data must be logged in order for providers and business partners to see who is accessing what information, apps, and other resources, when, and from which devices and locations. These records are useful for auditing reasons, allowing companies to discover areas of concern and, if required, reinforce preventive measures. An audit trail may help businesses locate specific access points, ascertain the reason, and assess damages when an incident happens.
Ensure the Security of Data at Rest and in Transit
For healthcare businesses, encryption is one of the most helpful data protection solutions. Even if attackers obtain access to the data, healthcare providers and business associates can make it more difficult (preferably impossible) for them to read patient information by encrypting data in transit and at rest. HIPAA makes recommendations but does not require healthcare organisations to implement data encryption measures; instead, the rule leaves it up to healthcare providers and business associates to determine which encryption methods and other measures are necessary or appropriate in light of the organization's workflow and other requirements.
Mobile Devices That Are Safe
Whether it's a physician using a smartphone to obtain information to assist them treat a patient or an administrative worker processing insurance claims, healthcare providers and covered businesses are increasingly employing mobile devices in the course of doing business. Mobile device security on its own comprises a slew of safeguards, including:
- All devices, settings, and configurations are managed.
- requiring the usage of complex passwords
- enabling remote wiping and locking of lost or stolen devices
- Data encryption for applications
- To prevent malware infections or unwanted data exfiltration, keep an eye on your email accounts and attachments.
Connected Device Risks Must Be Mitigated.
You typically think of smartphones and tablets when you think about mobile gadgets. However, with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), linked gadgets are taking on a variety of shapes and sizes. Everything from medical gadgets like blood pressure monitors to cameras used to monitor physical security on the premises might be connected to a network in the healthcare industry. To ensure that linked devices are secure, follow these steps:
- Maintain a separate network for IoT devices.
- Monitor IoT device networks on a regular basis for any abrupt changes in activity that might signal a breach.
- Use strong, multi-factor authentication wherever feasible. Disable non-essential services on devices before using them, or delete non-essential services completely before using them
- Maintain the most recent versions of all linked devices to guarantee that all applicable fixes are applied.
Conduct Regular Risk Evaluations
Regular risk assessments can reveal weaknesses or weak points in a healthcare organization's security, as well as deficiencies in staff education, inadequacies in suppliers' and business associates' security postures, and other areas of concern. Healthcare providers and their business associates can better avoid costly data breaches and the many other negative consequences of a data breach, such as reputational damage and regulatory penalties, by evaluating risk across their organisation on a regular basis to proactively identify and mitigate potential risks.
Make a Data Backup to a Secure, Offsite Location.
Cyber-attacks can disclose sensitive patient information, but they can also jeopardise data integrity or availability — ransom ware is a prime illustration of the damage these occurrences can cause. If data isn't adequately backed up, even a natural disaster affecting a healthcare organization's data centre might be devastating. That's why regular offsite data backups are advised, along with stringent data encryption, access, and other best practises to guarantee data backups remain safe. Offsite data backups are also an important part of disaster recovery
Evaluate Business Associates' Security and Compliance Posture Carefully.
Because healthcare information is being exchanged between providers and covered entities for the purposes of processing payments and delivering treatment, one of the most important security precautions healthcare organisations should take is to carefully evaluate all possible business collaborators. The HIPAA Omnibus Rule enhanced prior rules and defined business associate definitions, offering more advice on the types of interactions that require contracts. These explanations and revisions are summarised in the HIPAA Survival Guide, which includes:
- Organizations that transfer PHI but do not keep or store data fall under the conduit exemption. Organizations that only send data are not considered business partners, but those that keep and store personal information are.
- When third-party software and services, such as Google Apps, are utilised to preserve PHI, they are considered business associates. In such instances, the third-party service would be regarded a business associate, necessitating the execution of a contract. The HIPAA Survival Guide correctly points out that as more businesses turn to the cloud, they must be aware of any circumstances that might turn a vendor into a business assassin.
- Compliance laws apply to any subcontractors that produce or keep PHI. This shift alone has a significant knock-on effect and should be taken into account by all healthcare institutions.
- All covered companies must get "sufficient assurances" that PHI will be appropriately protected from all vendors, partners, subcontractors, and the like. PHI is accompanied with liability everywhere it goes.
- There are a few exceptions to this rule. "In general, a person or entity is a Business Associate only when the person or entity is conducting a function or activity regulated by the HIPAA Rules on behalf of a Covered Entity, such as payment or healthcare operations," according to the HIPAA Survival Guide. "Thus, despite the fact that it may be using the Covered Entity's Protected Health Information, a researcher is NOT automatically a Business Associate of a Covered Entity."
As the foregoing clarifications show, the privacy and security standards for HIPAA compliance are dependent not just on the actions of a healthcare organisation, but also on the activities of any auxiliary businesses with which it does business and any third-party services it employs. In other words, a company's compliance is heavily reliant on its ability to select and work with vendors who use comparable stringent healthcare data security safeguards. Furthermore, healthcare organisations that take data security seriously should recognise that, while HIPAA and other regulatory compliance initiatives are a good place to start when it comes to developing a data security programme and avoiding costly penalties, efforts should go beyond compliance to ensure that sensitive data is protected against today's threats.
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