10 Ways to Prevent a Healthcare Data Breach

by Applied Medical Systems

The HIPAA Journal reported that OCR had been alerted of 472 healthcare data breaches in the previous months of 2022 alone. The OCR receives reports at an increased rate as more and more individuals face these problems. Since 2009, an estimated 359 million records have been lost, stolen, or exposed in a healthcare data breach.   As a company centered on billing, coding, practice solutions, and more for your healthcare business, Applied Medical Systems knows it is essential to understand these threats. The more we learn, the more there is to share with others. Here, we have created a list of ten ways to prevent a healthcare data breach.  

Why is the healthcare industry being targeted?

The healthcare industry is a prime target for cybercriminals due to the large amount of high-sensitive patient information that these people can access, including date of birth, social security number, and next of kin. You can use current and previous addresses to steal a person’s identity. Stolen healthcare data may also be used as leverage to extort money from healthcare organizations desperate to protect patient information.

What you can do to prevent a healthcare data breach

As you can see, healthcare organizations must take steps to reduce the possibility of a data breach. Here are ten ways that you can tighten your data security:

Conduct an annual security risk analysis: 

Like a wellness exam that physicians encourage for patients, healthcare organizations should, at minimum, conduct an annual HIPAA security risk analysis. The HIPAA Security Rule requires periodic risk analysis already, so think of this as killing two birds with one stone. This analysis will help you identify vulnerabilities and areas of improvement to avoid a healthcare data breach.

Choose trusted partners: 

When you outsource services like medical billing, coding, or transcription, your healthcare data is only as secure as the measures your third-party service provider has in place. Make sure you carefully select a trusted provider like Applied Medical Systems, whose U.S.-based team has more than 50 years of experience in the healthcare industry.

Provide continuing education: 

Educate and re-educate employees on current HIPAA rules and regulations so that they fully understand the implications of a data breach and the consequences for violating them. 

Monitor devices and records: 

Part of continuing education for employees includes reminding them never to leave electronic devices or paper records unattended. The other piece is ensuring every employee is trained in the proper procedures for logging on and off machines--especially for shared devices.

Limit access to patient information:

 Users should only have access to patient healthcare data related to their position. Restricting access and managing user permissions are essential to preventing a healthcare data breach.

Create a wireless network for guests: 

The most secure way to offer patients and visitors wi-fi access without allowing access to your organization’s entire network is to create a subnetwork.

Restrict use of personal devices: 

Your IT staff has a big enough job ensuring the security of your internal network and devices. Have a clear “bring your own device” policy that outlines which devices (i.e., smartphones, tablets, laptops) are allowed to be used internally and externally. Can these company-issued devices be brought home? Will you enable personally-owned devices to connect to your internal network? Implementing and enforcing this policy can help prevent a healthcare data breach.

Update your IT infrastructure: 

Regarding technology and data security, the only permanent thing is change. Keep equipment secure by updating or replacing outdated hardware that can no longer have security patches available.

Don’t skimp on IT staff: 

You can’t operate a healthcare organization without physicians and nurses, but the same holds for quality IT staff. Your security measures are only as strong as those you hire to help support and manage them.

Invest in a good legal team: 

Healthcare data breaches have become so prevalent that the best thing you can do is prepare with a “when, not if” mentality. Take a proactive versus reactive approach and have good legal representation on standby in case of a breach. Are you looking to work with a company that considers all of these concerns before working with your business? At Applied Medical Systems, we take healthcare data security seriously. Learn more about how our medical billing, coding, and practice management services can help you mitigate risk. When you’re ready, contact us to request a free quote.