The threat of a data breach for medical practitioners and healthcare facilities can be significant, as you are holding patients’ confidential and sensitive information.

Should you suffer a data breach, not only could your practice suffer reputational damage, but you could also face compensation litigation claims and regulatory fines.

Protection is available for data loss and data breach in the form of specialist Cyber Security Insurance.

Privacy Protection

Privacy is the foundation of a medical centre’s information systems, and compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) – along with the facility’s reputation – will be jeopardised if even a single patient’s information falls into the wrong hands.

Healthcare facilities are particular targets for two reasons:

#1 Type of Data Stored

Healthcare facilities may keep a patient’s insurance and financial account data, birth date, name, billing address and phone, making them a valuable target for cybercrime.

#2 Potential Vulnerabilities

Medical facilities are obligated to provide access to several external networks and Web applications in order to stay connected with patients, employees, insurers or business partners. The volume of data shared can also represent a significant risk.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure!

While Cyber Insurance protection provides peace of mind, prevention is always the best option, both from a financial and reputational point of view.

Medical Practitioners should create a clear risk assessment and disaster plan which outlines how they would prevent, detect and respond to cyber-attacks or any misuse of patient records.

What are the Potential Risks?

The first step in protecting your business is to recognise the parts of your processes that are prone to cyber-attacks.

#1 Systems and Applications

External systems and applications are often a target for gaining improper access to sensitive patient data.  

Your practice may not have complete control over the security of external applications, as such, you should perform Web application security testing on a regular basis.

#2 Software Flaws

Weaknesses in software and computer systems attract hackers and intruders.

The results of this cyber risk can range from general mischief (creating a virus with no significant negative impact) to malicious activity (involving data theft or amending information).  

Hacker prevention and detection systems can alert you to cyber attacks, allowing you to respond in real-time.

#3 Malicious Code Attack

  • Virus: This type of code requires that the user take action before it can infect your system, such as opening an email attachment or going to a particular website.
  • Worm: This code propagates systems without user intervention. They typically begin by exploiting a software flaw or weakness. Once the victim’s computer is infected, the worm will attempt to find and infect other computers.
  • Trojan horse: This code is software that claims to be one thing while it is acting differently behind the scenes (a programme that claims to speed up your computer system but is actually sending confidential information to a remote intruder).

Implementing systems which can prevent these attacks include firewalls and regular security controls, which are essential in protecting sensitive data.

#4 Email Lacking Encryption

Email communications with doctors’ offices and hospitals should be encrypted to protect patient information.  

Encryption software is available, which will not negatively impact on your processes but will significantly reduce the risk of email interception.

#5 Internal Data Breach

Current or former employees ranging from accounts clerks to nurses should understand the consequences of consulting patient records without a valid cause. Usually, this can range from serious misconduct to termination.

Often employees are simply curious, and only a severe policy can effectively prevent this type of data loss.  

It is common for medical practices to implement log monitoring, for which logs of access to sensitive patient data are regularly reviewed by senior staff.

#6 Physical Loss of Information

It is a common misconception that data loss is restricted to online breaches.  However, an equally significant risk is the physical loss of information from lost or stolen tablets or laptops, which lead to missing personal information relating to patients or employees.

Risk Management Is Key

To reduce your Medical Centre’s cyber risks, you should develop a comprehensive Risk Management Plan.

Risk management solutions utilise medical industry standards and best practices to assess hazards from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction of your data and information systems.

Risk assessments should be an ongoing process – Regular security risk assessments will give you a better understanding of the risks posed to your protected health information and personally identifiable information identified in these two acts.

You should also examine the controls in place at your centre to ensure they are sufficient to meet your regulatory requirements.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) sets out specific requirements for medical practitioners in terms of required compliance with the Data Protection Act and your responsibility for managing sensitive data.

Tips for Implementing A Successful Risk Management Strategy

Executing a detailed risk management process helps your practice to remain in compliance while also demonstrating diligence and a commitment to compliance in the case of a data audit.

#1 Create a Detailed Risk Management Plan

Create a formal, documented risk management plan that addresses the scope, roles, responsibilities, compliance criteria and methodology for performing cyber risk assessments. This plan should include characterising all systems used at the organisation based on their function, the data stored and processed and their importance to the facility.

#2 Security Risk Assessments

Perform security risk assessments at least once a year, and update them whenever there are significant changes to your information systems or the facilities where systems are stored or when there are other changes that may impact the vulnerability of the organisation.

#3 Selecting Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

In addition, your organisation should take precautionary measures when selecting an internet service provider (ISP) which provides access to the Internet, website hosting and other services. To select the ISP that will best reduce your cyber risks, consider the level of security, privacy and reliability it offers.

#4 Transfer the Risk

Cyber security is a serious concern for all healthcare and medical facilities. Data Breach and Cyber Insurance protection allows you to transfer the majority of risk to an insurer.  You would still be responsible for any policy excess as well as meeting any specific policy requirements.

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