healthcare support IT texas

2021 goes down in history as the year of some of the most destructive healthcare data breaches. According to research, an astounding 40 million patient records were compromised. As healthcare became a bigger priority than usual because of the pandemic, ransomware attacks also increased steadily. Presently, figures have not dropped. In fact, cyber-attacks in the healthcare industry are still on the rise.

If you run a healthcare clinic, you should have a strong focus on strengthening security across the board. If you’re not careful, your practice could fall victim to a data breach that puts patients in danger, causes financial loss, affects your brand identity, and causes long-term damage. In some cases, healthcare practices never manage to recover from massive data breaches.

In this blog, we’ll offer a closer look at twelve ways to strengthen security across your practice. We’ll highlight the importance of professional security services and shed light on the significance of seeking timely and comprehensive support to ensure optimal protection. Continue reading, take notes, and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions towards the end. Let’s get started.

 

1. Understand the Current Landscape

Healthcare cyber-attacks have increased drastically over the past one-and-a-half year. Unfortunately, many practices are taking these reports lightly. Make sure you understand the current landscape and give it the importance it deserves. Compared to 2016, ransomware and phishing attacks are a lot more prevalent and damaging today. While you may think you’re protected, it’s possible that your data, systems, network, servers, and devices are vulnerable to potential attacks.

We strongly recommend understanding how security needs have evolved during the pandemic. As virtual healthcare becomes the new norm, cyber-attacks have taken a complete 180-degree turn. As a result, cybersecurity plans have also been restructured.

Contact cybersecurity professionals to understand your clinic’s unique requirements and take action accordingly. It’s possible that you require multifactor authentication. It’s also possible that you need to look into creating a stronger password policy. Or perhaps you need to mitigate connected device risks. Based on the insight offered by professionals, you’ll be able to understand your unique vulnerabilities and address them correctly.

Recommended Read: Ransomware and HIPAA Compliance: What You Need To Know

 

2. Educate Your Staff

TX support IT

The large majority of healthcare security issues can be prevented if the staff are adequately educated. The human element is still one of the biggest security threats in the healthcare sector. Even the slightest error or negligence can cost your practice its patients, reputation, and financial stability.

Make sure you equip your staff with security awareness training. This little measure will go a long way in improving security across your practice. Instead of simply understanding the risks, your employees should also gain insight into how to correctly mitigate them. Focus on both prevention and mitigation.

We also recommend setting up staff security meetings on a weekly basis. Simply setting up a meeting twice a year and calling it a day won’t cut it. Your staff should keep abreast of the latest cyber-threats and the right way to navigate them. They should also be well-informed about the most effective cybersecurity strategies.

Since new trends and plans are emerging on an almost daily basis, planning these meetings frequently is imperative. The last thing you want to do is rely on outdated strategies that have lost their efficacy over the years. When it comes to healthcare security, ensure accuracy and relevance.

 

3. Implement Access Controls

Your entire staff shouldn’t have access to your clinic’s data and applications. If sensitive information is needlessly shared, it can easily fall into the wrong hands. Make sure you implement access controls to strengthen healthcare data protection across your practice. Start by restricting access to sensitive patient data and specific applications that contain important information.

As a rule of thumb, ensure that these resources are only accessed by users who need them to perform their job. As you protect data, only authorized staff will be able to access it. We also recommend using data controls to block concerning actions involving sensitive information. If you notice any malicious web uploads, printing, copying activity, or email use, take it seriously. Stepping in at the right time can help you identify unauthorized and potentially injurious activity. When nipped in the bud, these efforts will be thwarted before they wreak havoc on your practice.

Lastly (and this goes without saying), ensure that all interactions with data, network, systems, and servers are monitored. Your practice should record which users are accessing what type of data on what occasion for what purpose. Keeping accurate logs is a great way to identify red flags and take protective measures accordingly. In case of a threat, an audit trail will help your practice identify exact entry points and take care of the damage before it worsens.

 

4. Ensure Mobile Device Protection

Texas healthcare cybersecurity

According to a recent survey, 90% of global healthcare IT decision makers state that their practice is focused on implementing mobile device security measures. This isn’t happenstance; it’s very intentional. The use of mobile devices can present issues with data encryption and HIPAA compliance.

We strongly recommend setting up a mobile device management system (MDSM). This is a great way to ensure proper administration and compliance. For enhanced risk mitigation, use an add-on system to manage mobile content.

A strong system will act as an authentication tool and ensure secure file-sharing. As a result, you’ll manage to steer clear of—or at the very least, reduce—the risk of mobile-related threats and attacks.

Recommended Read:HIPAA Compliance Training: What’s Required For Your Organization

 

5. Use a Spam Filter

Are you familiar with the leading cause of healthcare breaches? The answer may surprise you: phishing attacks. Needless to say, these attacks should be your top priority as you start strengthening healthcare security across your practice.

Start by using a strong spam filter. Presently, phishing attempts have become incredible complex and intelligent. If you’re not careful—and by careful, we mean extra careful—an employee could accidentally end up opening a phishing email. A spam filter will prevent such cases from surfacing as malicious emails will be blocked. Additionally, malicious email addresses will be blacklisted for enhanced protection.

We also recommend training your staff so they can easily detect phishing attempts. Sophisticated malware and phishing attempts can end up wreaking havoc on your entire system. If your staff understands how these scams can be circumvented, you’ll save your practice a lot of trouble down the road.

 

6. Update Your Backups

healthcare backups in a practice

In case of a deadly cyber-attack, there may be little to nothing that can be done if your data isn’t adequately backed up. HIPAA requires healthcare practices to retain critical data, including copies of patient protected health information (PHI).

In most cases, these should be saved at an offsite facility. If you fall victim to a ransomware attack, you’ll manage to avoid paying the ransom by using your backup to regain lost data.

We strongly recommend maintaining strong offsite data backups. These are an essential aspect of effective disaster recovery, which can make or break your practice.

 

7. Understand the Risks That Connected Devices Carry

In the healthcare industry, almost every medical device is connected to a network. Take strong measures to ensure connected device security. For starters, maintain each IoT device on its own unique network. Carefully and assiduously monitor each IoT device network to detect unexpected changes in activity levels; these are indicative of a breach.

We also suggest using multi-factor authentication for enhanced protection. Today, many healthcare practices are benefiting from cloud-based web security tools that offer optimal protection for applications across a wide range of devices. The risk is significantly reduced.

 

8. Take a Closer Look at the Security Posture of Other Healthcare Clinics

a healthcare clinic

Competitor analyses are extremely common in the digital marketing industry, but that’s not all. These analyses can also help healthcare practices implement better strategies and improve security on the whole. If your competition has a stronger security posture, it goes without saying that they’ll gain the trust of patients and perform better in your vicinity.

We recommend reaching out to your cybersecurity team and requesting a healthcare security competitor analysis report. They will carefully evaluate the practices that are in place at some of the leading clinic in your area. Once the insights arrive, they can be utilized for targeted improvements.

 

9. Adequately Dispose of Old Hardware

Out of sight, out of mind. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. It’s easy to think that once you’ve deleted data, it’s gone. However, more often than not, sensitive information lingers when you least expect it.

This happens frequently when old terminals, hard drives, and hardware are hastily disposed of. If the information is still accessible, your practice could be in deep trouble. If the device was previously used to access a network with credentials or EHRs, the data is within a malicious user’s reach.

Make it a point to delete and reformat drives. In addition, adequately dispose of old hardware to ensure that your information isn’t vulnerable.

 

10. Focus on Email Security

Many practices have a habit of overlooking email security. At first sight, it may not sound like something that can result in a massive data breach. However, inadequate email security measures can potentially cause massive harm to your practice.

If patient data and prescription information are accessed by cyber-criminals, you may end up facing legal, financial, and reputational trouble down the road.

Make sure you benefit from strong email security solutions that offer attachment analysis, multi-factor authentication, and URL protection.

 

11. Use Trusted Partners

a lab technician using healthcare software

Whether you’re growing your workforce or partnering with new clients for cutting-edge software solutions, make sure you use trusted partners. If your clinic’s information is misused, you may end up inadvertently opening up a Pandora’s box of cyber-attacks.

Stay cautious and avoid trusting employees or professionals with sensitive information, software, or applications. Once an employee departs your practice, make sure their access to practice information and systems is revoked. Use the same strategy for potential partners.

This is a great way to strengthen internal security. The stronger your internal cybersecurity framework, the better.

 

12. Ensure Data Encryption

Last but definitely not the least, invest in data encryption. This is one of the most essential tools used by healthcare practices. As you carefully encrypt data in transit and at rest, you’ll make it increasingly difficult for malicious users to decipher sensitive practice information.

If you’re looking to go the extra mile, we also suggest signing up for managed IT services. If disaster strikes, a team of IT professionals will ensure that your practice is protected and up and running. This is a great way to gain complete peace of mind, ensure operational efficiency, reap the benefits of 24/7/365 IT monitoring and support, and reduce operating costs.

As you invest in protecting and improving your practice, you’ll manage to actualize consistent, long-term growth. This is the ultimate goal of every healthcare practice, and one that you should aim towards.

At 3i International, we’re committed to helping healthcare clinics reap the benefits of strong security across the board. Our security services are designed to protect your data, network, and stakeholders. As one of the leading cybersecurity providers in Texas, we’ve got your back.

Whether you’re looking for cybersecurity assessment and management services or cybersecurity consulting services in Houston, TX, give us a call. We specialize in helping healthcare practices stay HIPAA compliant, securely transfer information, follow industry and government regulations, bill accurately, and increase efficiency across the board.

Over the years, we’ve served numerous clients across the healthcare industry, including hospitals, labs, clinics, ambulatory healthcare services, nursing and residential care facilities, healthcare professionals, medical practitioners, manufacturers of medical devices and equipment, medical insurance experts, and pharmaceutical companies, among several other practices and professionals.

We offer services for Halogen, TheraOffice, ZirMed, EMS eSchedule, drchrono, MediTouch, NueMD, and WebPT. You can also sign up for our cloud-based network monitoring services, managed IT services, VoIP services, copier services, and business continuity plans, among other services and support plans.

Let’s get started.