Organizations everywhere are becoming increasingly aware of the threat cyberattacks pose to their operations. Hackers can work behind-the-scenes of a computer system completely unnoticed while accessing a system’s most private data. For physician health organizations (PHO), a cyber breach could mean inadvertently giving criminals access to sensitive patient information resulting in identification theft. As such, cybersecurity must be a paramount concern for PHO’s.
Once a cybercriminal has access to patient data such as social security numbers, bank account numbers or passwords, they have access to a host of ways to hurt the patient and the PHO. PHOs are a prime target for these crimes due to the volume of private information they store and the multiple systems they work on across the organization. Fortunately, there are ways a PHO can strengthen its cyber defenses. From employing technology to properly training staff to recognize and respond to a potential attack, PHOs should consider the following cyber defense measures.
- Technology: The steady increase in cyber breaches has created a sense of urgency for the development of cyber technology solutions. Healthcare organizations should work with their internal IT team or an outsourced cybersecurity professional who specializes in healthcare to determine what cybersecurity tools will best protect them. When researching such tools, healthcare organizations should ensure they abide by standards and state requirements such as HIPPA rules. Popular and successful tools include firewall protection, anti-virus software, multi-factor authentication and more.
- Have a plan: In addition to choosing the right technology, organizations need to develop a plan that includes the purpose of the technology they are employing, how to use it, how they plan to prevent cybercrime and how they plan to respond should an attack be successful. Having protocols in place to respond, communicate relevant information to the public and take corrective action can help an organization act quickly in the event of an attack. Such a plan should also include comprehensive insurance coverage to ensure if an attack does happen, the organization has the resources and support necessary to respond as well as the ability to recover. Insurance coverage can assist with business interruption, reputation management, legal and credit monitoring costs related to certain breaches, equipment replacement, additional IT support services and more.
- Training: PHOs work with large networks of individuals. Each individual who uses the PHO’s online network should be trained in cyber security. Training can include how to identify a breach attempt such as a phishing event, how to report a potential breach or discrepancy in the system and the risk involved in a successful breach. When individuals understand what is at stake and are equipped with the proper tools to combat a cyber breach, they can become an effective line of defense for the organization.
The information healthcare organizations are given by their patients is not to be taken lightly and should be guarded carefully. PHOs must have a plan in place and constantly reevaluate their approach to ensure they keep up with hacker tactics and maintain the privacy their patients expect from their healthcare providers.