Electronic Health Records (EHR) are a necessity for any modern healthcare organization. However, the sheer volume and value of the information being transmitted in EHRs make them a target for security threats.
The security concerns surrounding EHRs are not limited to hospitals and doctors’ offices, either. Many companies gain access to sensitive health information through their typical course of business, and they might not all be equipped to handle it.
An overview of the top security concerns and what can be done to address them reveals that education and expertise are the two best ways of protecting the data in EHRs.
A Severe, Overarching Problem
According to a study, 68 percent of surveyed health care organizations in the US submitted that they had recently experienced a significant security incident. Not only did these security issues come from external sources, but many of them stemmed from internal sources as well.
People attempting to steal valuable data about people is all but expected in the Information Age, but it is hardly something that must be tolerated. Internal leaks of information, purposeful or not, is not only disheartening but requires more effort to discern whether it was malevolence or ignorance that led to the information being transmitted.
These security threats pose a significant risk to businesses in terms of trust and the penalties assigned to organizations that fail to protect data.
The primary concern for EHR security is always data breaches from outside of the healthcare provider or business. Mitigating these threats is not always easy but working with a professional security consultant group can help shore up a business’s cybersecurity.
An important security service that consultancies offer is threat detection within a company’s network. These companies will examine your network for security issues and then fix them to ensure no more information is leaked in that way. This service is critical for companies that have experienced a breach and need to get back on track.
Another element of EHR security is finding breaches on the Dark Web, a place where credentials, passwords, and information are up for sale. Working with experienced cybersecurity experts can identify and mitigate threats before they become a security breach by scanning the Dark Web and actively changing access information.
Although it is less overtly threatening, another important EHR security concern is HIPAA compliance in every workplace that handles the EHRs or personal health data of any customer or employee. According to the HITECH Act, business associates are responsible for HIPAA in their workplace even if they are just tangentially receiving and using the personal health information (PHI) of their customers.
Simply put, if HIPAA is required or even recommended, then your business should be HIPAA compliant.
Fortunately, some companies can act as a third-party in developing another company’s HIPAA compliance. A starting point for this process would be to download our HIPAA Compliance checklist to see where you're current gaps in compliance are. When you're ready, have a company like WheelHouse IT provide you with an audit of the existing structures within the business that identify any potential risks relative to HIPAA. Finally, implement security solutions that maintain business compliance with HIPAA and safeguards the protected health information of your clients.
Healthcare Worker Education
An under-educated healthcare worker can be a significant security threat to any business. Phishing attacks on healthcare worker emails is a common source of security breaches, and so are phony file-share requests for EHRs. Sometimes, workers just leave their credentials logged into a system, user passwords for multiple systems, or do not have the knowledge to recognize a coordinated threat to their systems.
While a large part of the worker’s education should come from the healthcare organization’s training, it may be necessary to bring in a third-party company to help them. These companies have cutting-edge training that they instill in workers, so they are less likely to be a vulnerability in their workplace security. The training will ensure that any new protocols put into place are effective and reinforced by the knowledge given to the front-line workers. The people with the most contact with EHRs are the front line of defense, so they must be prepared.
Impacts of Data Migration to The Cloud
Overall HIPAA compliance is important, but there is a subset of EHR security that requires a greater level of expertise. In this case, it is Cloud Computing, including the storage and tools offered by the services. Storing ePHI on-site can be challenging, and it gets even murkier when a business is seeking to manage their Cloud services and storage while staying in compliance with HIPAA. Cloud managed services providers can evaluate a company’s systems to ensure they comply, bring them up to code, provide robust security, and ensure data recovery is swift in the event of the unthinkable.
Patient information will continue to be stored in secure recesses of the Cloud, but it is up to each individual provider to be certain that the data is in the right hands.
Integrating the Right IT Partners and Consultants
A unique security concern that some businesses and healthcare organizations do not consider is their vendors, IT providers, and consultants. Whether a business has a full complement of IT professionals providing managed security services or just Cloud services, it is necessary to examine the credentials of any outsiders.
That is why a major step towards total EHR security involves vetting the companies that work on systems that store or secure patient data. It will always be best to have HIPAA compliant and accredited businesses working on your systems if you store EHRs or PHI. Finding the proper company can take some work but refusing to settle for lesser IT companies or managed service providers can save you trouble in the future.
The top EHR security concerns require constant vigilance to protect the valuable data entrusted to people in the medical field along with those with their partners. Protecting this data is a battle to maintain the best internet security in the face of ever-changing threats. By addressing the problems outlined here, your company will be more prepared to face the difficulties associated with being responsible for patient information. Increased education, technological superiority, and a willingness to get help from professionals in the industry are all ways to stay ahead of security breaches.
Looking for more ways to start addressing EHR security concerns, try our Ultimate Cyber Security Checklist.