Patient data breach cases are becoming alarmingly common nowadays in the US, especially given the current situation (read: the COVID-19 pandemic). While many hackers had pledged in the early days of the pandemic that they will not be targeting hospitals, health systems, or healthcare organizations so that these institutions can completely focus on the patients, not everyone seemed to share the sentiment.
Latest patient data breach numbers
As a result, healthcare providers have been constantly facing a barrage of data breaches, with September hitting a record this year. 95 data breaches were reported where 9.7 million patient records were compromised – let that sink in.
While these numbers show how serious healthcare data breaches are, there are steps healthcare providers can take. Some of these offer extra protection and might even prevent data breaches entirely, where a few of them can mitigate the costs associated with data breaches.
Although these might seem mundane, healthcare providers need all the help they can get to prevent data breaches within their facilities, as many of their hands are tied due to budgetary issues. Let’s take a look at some of the ways hospitals and health systems can mitigate their losses created by data breaches.
Ways to mitigate losses related to data breaches
Back up crucial information in a different location
One of the most common tactics used by hackers recently is deploying ransomware. This causes the affected system to encrypt the files, restrict authorized access, and display a message that states the amount of money required to restore the system. It is worse than it sounds – thousands of patients are affected, operations are disrupted, and the whole caregiving process is in jeopardy.
This is why backing up sensitive information, especially PHI (protected health information), is crucial. However, while many already back up the information, you can make it more effective by storing it in a different system, preferably an offline one, or one that cannot be accessed by outsiders by any means. This way, even if the main information is locked up due to ransomware, you can access the secondary backup – just don’t forget to keep it updated regularly.
Keep sensitive information encrypted at all times
Do you know how encrypting will help mitigate losses even if you get hit by a data breach? Well, the data breaches are focused on stealing patient information that can be later sold in the black market to fraudsters. However, if the information is encrypted, it will be useless for both hackers and fraudsters leading to lower medical identity theft cases. This protects your assets and patients as the data cannot be used by unauthorized parties for nefarious purposes – mitigating losses after a patient data breach.
Train your employees regularly
One of the most common ways data breaches occur is when an employee inadvertently opens the email sent by the hackers – one way to avoid that is by providing training. Hospitals must ensure that their employees are regularly trained about the dos and don’ts regarding information security. Moreover, hospitals also need to ensure that they demonstrate to the employees regarding PHI handling, devices containing sensitive information, as well as its disposal after usage. Providing training regularly that covers the latest tactics used by hackers can be instrumental in preventing data breaches within your healthcare facility.
Keep employees updated regarding security changes
Since patient data breach is more common than ever, many caregivers are continuously making changes to their security measures. However, doing so is only part of the process – you must also ensure that your employees are updated regarding the recent changes as well. Adding a new form of authentication or deploying a new solution? Keep your employees in the loop – they’re the ones who handle PHI, after all.
Conduct internal audits periodically
The best way to mitigate the losses of a data breach is by detecting how one can occur – internal audits exist to identify those security gaps. HIPAA mandates that healthcare providers conduct internal audits to detect any security gaps so that they can fix it themselves, and thus, prevent data breaches. You can work on the areas that require attention and place the necessary security measures required to address them.
Follow the necessary rules when you experience a data breach
Thankfully, HIPAA is a multilayered law that provides guidelines to follow before, during, and even after data breaches.
Healthcare organizations need to stay ahead by planning everything – having a breach response plan at hand can be very crucial. Outlining the investigation process after a breach, estimated time to notify the officials regarding it, and the services that must be offered to the affected patients can be a good start.
Moreover, rather than reacting, sticking to the planned procedure can help mitigate losses. Investigating the breach, detecting the severity of it, and planning countermeasures against it is a step in the right direction. Collecting all the information and facts and then presenting it to the authorities will be far more effective than resorting to reactive actions.
Use effective solutions that are tried and tested
HIPAA has been mentioned several times – that’s because it’s closely related to data breaches as well as safeguarding PHI. Thus, ensuring HIPAA compliance is crucial if healthcare providers want to avoid breaches or mitigate losses associated with them. However, HIPAA is a complex law with many rules and regulations – using a solution to streamline compliance can help manage it better. HIPAA Ready is a powerful yet simple HIPAA compliance application that streamlines compliance, reduces the administrative burden, and keeps HIPAA documentation in a centralized location. Moreover, you can also ensure training management using the solution – keeping your employees updated regarding all the latest developments.
Leading healthcare providers go above and beyond to protect patients by preventing medical identity theft with RightPatient. It is a touchless patient identification platform that uses patients’ faces for identity verification. By ensuring that patients are who they say they are, RightPatient prevents medical identity theft and protects patients even if the data is breached – mitigating losses associated with healthcare data breaches.