5 Key Steps To Prevent Data Breaches In The Healthcare Sector
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5 Key Steps To Prevent Data Breaches In The Healthcare Sector

Healthcare is traditionally at the forefront of advances in technology. Therefore, it is no surprise that the healthcare industry has embraced all the digital age advantages. However, although the digitalization of healthcare has an overwhelming number of benefits for service providers and patients alike, there are also a few disadvantages that need addressing. One of the biggest problems with healthcare and digitalization is that the industry’s data is often highly confidential and vulnerable to data breaches. Therefore, we ask the question: What can be done to prevent data breaches in the healthcare sector while still making full use of the benefits of digitalization?

1.    Focus on Keeping Networks as Safe as Possible

The first and most important step in protecting healthcare data is protecting the computer networks that facilitate data flow. Since these networks are rarely isolated and usually connected to the internet, they offer a potential access point for hackers. However, the difficulty of hacking into networks is greatly reduced by using safeguards like antimalware and antivirus software, firewalls, and end-point protection. Although it is also important to use more advanced network security, these basic security safeguards should not be overlooked.

2.    Train Staff on How to Work with Sensitive Data

Securing and protecting healthcare data against breaches requires a holistic approach. One weak link in the security chain is often required for a hacker to gain access to confidential data. Therefore, training staff in the basics of keeping data secure is crucial to overall network security. For example, workstations should always be locked when they are not actively used. In addition, portable hard drives and flash drives should never be used on networked workstations unless scanned for malware beforehand. It is often thought that these security guidelines should not be mentioned because they are so obvious. Still, an alarming amount of people are oblivious to the risks posed by an action as simple as plugging a flash drive into a workstation to transfer files.

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3.    Limit Access to Data

The “need to know only” approach is best when it comes to dealing with sensitive data. By allowing employees access only to the data they need, the chances of a hacker gaining unfettered access to data are limited considerably. A hierarchical data access system can be implemented by performing a data audit and assigning appropriate access rights to users. For example, an administrative employee who works in the finance department does not necessarily need to access a patient’s confidential medical records. It is also important to perform regular data audits to maintain a good balance between productivity and security.

4.    Control Data Flow

This step goes hand in hand with the previous one. By carefully controlling users’ ability to copy data to external devices or print it out, the possibility of a data breach is further reduced. While data must be exported in some cases, every user does not need to have the ability to perform this action. In conjunction with this, it is also important to allow only selective interfacing with external applications. These can include the sharing of information between a hospital and a medical insurance provider. Since the data must leave the confines of one protected network to reach a second network, the data must be protected during transit. This can be done by ensuring that data is always sent in an encrypted format so that only the authorized receiver can read the data.

5.    Regularly Evaluate the Efficacy of Data Protection Policies

This is perhaps one of the most important data protection techniques that are available to database administrators. Data protection policies should be tested regularly to ensure that they do not contain any gaps that hackers could exploit. This can be done internally by IT security staff or externally by companies specializing in network security evaluation. The saying: measuring is knowing is very much applicable in this respect.

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Data protection is an ongoing activity, and network administrators should never assume that enough has been done to protect the data they are responsible for. Healthcare data, in particular, is considered a high-value target for hackers because of its sensitive nature. Therefore, it is important to do everything possible to remain one step ahead of cybercriminals and keep confidential data confidential.

Author Bio: This article was written by Eoin Pigott of Wisetek. Eoin is an expert in the importance of Data Destruction for data security.

5 Key Steps To Prevent Data Breaches In The Healthcare Sector

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