How to Prevent Data Breaches in Healthcare

Topics: Healthcare IT Management

As cyber attacks become more and more of a prevalent problem, many healthcare organizations are addressing the need to prevent data breaches. Organizations can adopt strategies to better manage their digital footprint, create an incident response plan and conduct audits.

There have been many data breaches in the healthcare sector in the last year. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, there were 253 reported data breaches that affected 500 or more individuals in the first half of 2015 with a combined impact of over 112 million records. As this becomes more and more of a prevalent problem, many healthcare organizations are acutely feeling the need to learn how to prevent data breaches from happening.

Organizations that are worried about this security issue should take the following steps to protect themselves and their electronic health information:

Manage the Information Footprint

While most healthcare organizations have a retention schedule, few of them actually enforce it, particularly their electronic information. To mitigate the risk of loss or breach, it is critical for organizations to enforce their retention schedules - for both physical and electronic information. The longer this type of data resides in the digital environment, the higher the possibility it will be accessed by cybercriminals.

Create an Incident Response Plan

By creating an incident response plan, healthcare organizations can deal with potential security risks in a quick and efficient manner. This will allow IT professionals to spot questionable activity and software vulnerabilities before an incident can escalate. Above all, an incident response plan will make it much more difficult for a cybercriminal to gain access to an organization's digital environment. With each level of protection a company installs, it increases its chance of avoiding a breach.

Conduct Regular Security Audits

Conducting regular security audits can help an organization understand how prepared it is for a data breach if one actually occurs. This process might be likened to conducting an audit of an organization's safety response procedures by means of an emergency preparedness drill. More often than not, a drill uncovers gaps in the process that must be corrected, and the same is true for an incident response plan. It must be audited on a regular basis and updated accordingly to ensure success.

Healthcare organizations interested in learning how to prevent data breaches should start by taking these steps, which will help put them in the most secure position possible to reduce their level of risk. By better managing the information footprint - and adhering to retention requirements through automated policy enforcement, organizations can help to reduce risk of breach and the potential impact of fines and reputation damage.