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Cyber Security Tips for Medical Practices

Password protecting our desktop computers and mobile devices is something we have grown accustomed to throughout the years. However, there are more steps that need to be taken to reinforce the cyber security of your medical practice. Like the healthcare industry, cyber security is a continuously changing and complex environment.

The safe handling of patient records is a priority in healthcare, especially when you consider the regulations set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Violations stemming from HIPAA can lead to civil and criminal penalties against your business. In order to avoid these issues and have a secured medical practice, take a look at some common cyber security measures you should be implementing:

Creating a layered defense

A common misconception is that a single line of defense is sufficient enough to protect your valuable data. However, the best approach is one where several systems are in place to stop a hacking or catastrophic event. This idea is applicable to practices of any size regardless if you have one computer or a practice with several devices and users. The core of this concept starts with making sure that the software you use daily is up to date. Keeping your software current should apply to both desktops and mobile devices as older versions of existing software can be prone to more attacks. Cloud-based software makes things easier by automatically pushing out important updates and reducing the amount of IT infrastructure needed at your practice.

Improving the sophistication of firewalls, anti-malware measures, and encryption are some additional steps to keep your practice safe. Some of the most common software used to properly layer a defense are:

  • Anti-viruses
  • Firewalls
  • Anti-spam software
  • User/Privacy Controls
Train your employees

Your office staff is usually the front line for patient interactions and record maintenance. Keeping an open line of communication and develop policies regarding their roles in safeguarding patient data is essential. They should understand the hazards of downloading unauthorized software and always stay away from unknown email links that can cause potential viruses to spread. Encourage your staff to speak out if they receive suspicious emails, even if they are familiar with the source.

Creating good habits for password maintenance should also be discussed regularly. This includes using distinctive passwords that do not match those used for personal accounts. An easy but effective way to protect access to user profiles is to implement a rule where passwords are changed every 90 days. This will create a line of protection that will put your practice ahead of potential password scammers.

Also, ensure that your staff meets certain requirements such as only using company provided computers or tablets. These are simple best practices that every office should encourage. In addition, cyber security software training will help your staff identify risks and how to avoid them. Putting time and effort into a training procedure will help your staff understand the value of protecting patient data and securing their work place.

Disaster recovery plan

As previously mentioned, HIPAA regulates the safeguarding of patient records. So it’s no surprise that they also require a plan be put in place for recovering sensitive data under the HIPAA Security Rule. You must ensure that a structured approach is in place to counteract a hacking event and what it could do to your practice. As a medical provider, ask yourself:

  • What are the key patient care departments?
  • What are the IT applications that support these operations?
  • How is the data received and processed by each department?

Also, ask yourself how much revenue could be lost in any of these scenarios. These questions will help narrow in on your most critical data outlets. Once that is set, create plans for how to restore and maintain access to data in the event of a loss. Creating data backups or keeping additional computers on standby are a few things to consider. Part of safely securing your data is making sure that you do not keep your primary and backup data together in the same location. These strategic actions will help to keep your data safe against a cyber attack or a physical loss such as a natural or man-made disaster.


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posted by OBarros
posted in Healthcare Management
posted date Mar 2017