Healthcare data contains a high degree of sensitive information. In fact, it is a treasure trove for hackers and cybercriminals, and healthcare organizations are continually under threat.

The threat is so significant that 89% of healthcare providers have reported some form of a data breach within the last two years.

With stringent HIPAA compliance standards in place, health security is something that should always be high on the agenda in the planning and budgets of all healthcare organizations.

What are the specific dangers in healthcare data security? And, how do healthcare organizations protect themselves from this growing threat?

Here are five things that you need to know about healthcare data security

1. Cyberattacks Are Very Common in the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare is reported to be the sector that attracts the highest number of ransomware attacks.

In a ransomware attack, a website or an entire digital infrastructure may be brought down by hackers. Once offline, the criminals will threaten to prevent access unless a ransom is paid.

They may also threaten to publish personal or financial data of patients.
Healthcare organizations that invest in support from specialist IT security for health providers will often have robust plans in place on how to deal with this type of attack.

Taking a hardline and refusing to pay ransoms, backing up all data, and investing time and money in training employees to identify phishing emails are just some of the measures that a healthcare organization can use to limit the risk of this type of attack.

2. The Healthcare Industry Is Reliant on Data Sharing

The treatment of patients often requires doctors to share patient files with other doctors in the same institution. These files may also need to be shared with other hospitals.

The ability to move medical files helps doctors do their jobs more effectively. If a doctor can pass on a referral instantly to a colleague in a different department, it saves a considerable amount of administration.

A joined-up system that allows the sharing of data between many locations has its problems, though.

Medical institutions need to apply a good standard of ‘cyber hygiene’ across the board to ensure that data can pass effortlessly between departments and organizations without risk of a breach in the patient’s information.

This is where HIPAA compliance comes into play. If all healthcare organizations work to the same standard, there should be no concerns over medical records being shared.

3. User Error Is a Factor of Concern for Healthcare Organizations

Many data breaches or ransomware attacks happen due to mistakes made by employees.

Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways of criminals to gain access to the data owned by healthcare organizations.

In this type of attack, users open emails they believe to be from an official source.

The email will have an urgent action, and a link will take them to a cloned website that they’ll recognize. From there, they’ll log in, and the hackers will steal their credentials.

Once a hacker has stolen password data, they’ll be able to access systems through the front door making the attacks harder to spot.

One of the best ways of reducing the risks associated with these attacks is to educate employees on how to spot phishing emails. Other training could involve learning to avoid opening unsolicited attachments.

Carrying out regular password changes, utilizing stronger passwords, and preventing password sharing are all helpful ways of reducing the risk of user error leading to login credentials falling into the wrong hands.

In addition to these measures, using biometric logins or multi-factor authentication will also stop hackers from gaining access to websites and systems.

4. HIPAA Violations Can Be Costly

All healthcare organizations are required to be compliant with HIPAA. These regulations apply to the following institutions:

  • Doctors’ surgeries
  • Hospitals
  • Dental practices
  • Health insurance companies
  • Lawyers handling medical records as part of claims or legal cases.

HIPAA compliance requires organizations to put in place strict security measures to protect data. Where organizations fail to make these standards, they may be fined.
Fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $1.5 million each year per violation.

Where healthcare bosses have been neglectful in their data protection measures, criminal charges have previously been levied.

5. Many Hospitals Run on Outdated Technology

The cost of updating systems across an entire healthcare organization can mount up. Often, this leaves larger companies and hospitals with significant changes that they struggle to keep on top of.

Older software and hardware can become a major task to replace. And, while medical equipment often has a long lifecycle, IT systems need to adapt to modern threats.

A lack of investment in updated software has led to machines running on versions of Windows that are over a decade old in many hospitals. In software that is this old, support will have stopped many years ago. This puts systems in a vulnerable position against modern malware.

Investing in modern technology and keeping software up-to-date is essential to prevent attacks. Not only that, but newer software will be HIPAA compliant, such as this patient texting application- check it out.

What Healthcare Data Security Measures Should Be Taken?

Data protection is essential in the healthcare sector. One of the best ways that an organization can protect their patient data is to hire the services of a managed service provider.

A managed service provider will be able to provide:

  • Round the clock system monitoring
  • Full compliance auditing
  • Training and disaster planning support
  • Advice on all matters surrounding HIPAA compliance

What is clear is that healthcare data security is a grave matter. To avoid taking measures is to sleepwalk towards an inevitable disaster that could mean a patient’s data is compromised and taken advantage of, this could damage them financially.

Data breaches result in ruined lives, hefty fines, and severe damage to the reputation of the organization that has been breached.

For more great healthcare articles, be sure, and explore the rest of the blog.

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How to Trick Your Brain into Making Better Decisions (Backed By Scientific Studies)

What are some tools to use for effective decision making? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing site where questions are answered by people with unique insights. This answer was shared by Charles Duhigg, staff writer for the New York Times and author of Smarter Faster Better, on Quora:

Here is what scientific studies say will help you make better decisions:

Thinking through various, contradictory possibilities, and then trying to force yourself to figure out which ones are more or less likely, and why. (This is known as probabilistic thinking, and studies show that it significantly increases the quality of people’s decision making.)

Say, for instance, that you are trying to decide whether your group of rebels should attack the Death Star. Seems like an easy decision, right?

After all, the Death Star is filled with jerks, and it has a big glaring weakness (that apparently no architect considered when designing the ship): one well placed shot can blow up the entire thing.

If you are some hillbilly from Tatooine, you’ll charge off into space. You’ll think about this decision in binary terms (“The Empire=bad. The rebels=good. What can go wrong?”)

But, if you are practiced at decision making, you’ll probably do something a bit differently: you’ll sit down with Adm. Ackbar, and you’ll try to envision the dozens of different outcomes that are possible. (“We could get defeated before we make it to the ship. We could make it to the ship and not have enough X-wings.

We could have enough X-wings but then miss the shot. We could make the shot but our intel could be wrong. We could have good intel and make the shot and the Death Star blows up, but our reward is Jar Jar Binks…” You get the point.)

Now, here’s the thing: you aren’t going to be very precise at assigning probabilities to all those possibilities. (“What are the odds that our intel is bad?”) But forcing yourself to think through all the possibilities and then simply TRYING to assign odds will be really helpful in revealing what you do and don’t know.

So, maybe you are pretty certain that your intel is good, and maybe you are pretty certain that, if they can get close to the Death Star, your pilots will hit the target (because, after all, you’ve got the force on your side), but you aren’t particularly certain that you have enough X-wings to make sure that you’ll get close to the Death Star.

Now you know which parts of your plan are weakest, you know what you need to learn more about and what problems you need to solve to increase the odds of success.

Our brains, left to their own devices, prefer to think about choices in binary terms. (And, from an evolutionary standpoint, this is really efficient.)

But to make better decisions, we have to force ourselves to think probabilistically – AND THEN WE NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE FACT THAT PROBABILISTIC THINKING TENDS TO REVEAL HOW MUCH WE DON’T KNOW.

It is scary to confront uncertainty. It can make you crazy and anxious. That’s why it is so much easier to look at choices as binary options (“I’ll either succeed or fail”) or deterministic outcomes (“I ended up married to her because she was my soulmate.”)

But if you genuinely want to make better decisions, you have to fight that instinct, and make yourself think about multiple possibilities – both the good and the bad – and be really honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know (and what is knowable and unknowable.)

And then you have to take a leap, and make a decision, and see it as  an experiment that gives you data, rather than a success or failure that you should congratulate yourself on/beat yourself up about.

Because, unfortunately, the force doesn’t really exist. But probabilities do.

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