Published on October 29, 2023, 8:38 pm
Securing data is a critical aspect of any organization’s operations, and the healthcare sector is no exception. In order to protect sensitive patient information, healthcare providers must establish secure measures at every stage of the data lifecycle.
To begin with, healthcare organizations need to identify the data that requires protection and have a clear understanding of how it will be transferred between entities. This entails implementing secure data transfer policies, ensuring access controls are in place so that only authorized individuals can access and use the data for appropriate purposes, and adopting secure practices for data disposal.
The importance of data security in healthcare cannot be overstated. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, the healthcare sector is 50 times more valuable on the black market than financial information. A report by the Joint Commission revealed that in 2022 alone, there were 707 data breaches in the US healthcare system, exposing over 51 million patient records. The most common breaches occurred through network servers and emails.
In light of these risks and challenges, governments, including Singapore’s, are undertaking long-term healthcare reforms to strengthen cybersecurity within their healthcare systems. Singapore plans to invest in information technology systems that prioritize mission-critical functions such as hospital billing, drug ordering and dispensation, and maintaining national medical databases.
However, successful implementation of these reforms requires collaboration among various health providers as well as seamless access to patient data. To facilitate this process, Singapore intends to introduce new legislation in the second half of 2023 to enable secure sharing of patient information between different healthcare providers. This sharing of information will promote uninterrupted care continuity for patients.
Leonardo Hutabarat, head of solutions engineering for APJ at LogRhythm notes that while there are established security practices for securing data shared through traditional communication methods like the web or email channels, additional measures are required within the healthcare sector. Hutabarat emphasizes that communications between medical devices that collect healthcare data (such as X-ray machines) and the health information systems managing this data must be secured using specialized protocols in the health industry.
The value of healthcare data and potential cyberattacks targeting hospitals cannot be understated. Hospitals not only possess large volumes of protected health information but also hold personally identifiable data, including payment details and valuable medical research. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that any ecosystem enabling data sharing among healthcare providers is robust enough to withstand cyberattacks.
Hutabarat believes that policy and governance play integral roles in securing health data. The implementation of cybersecurity tools helps healthcare institutions swiftly detect threats and recover compromised data to instill confidence and trust in the sharing of data. Additionally, implementing a centralized technology solution for monitoring, tracking, and responding to threats is crucial for enhancing visibility and safeguarding data.
Despite significant investments made in cybersecurity solutions by the healthcare sector globally, persistent attacks continue to occur. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the sector is projected to spend over $18 billion on cybersecurity solutions in 2023 alone. Hutabarat cautions that while security measures can never truly guarantee foolproof protection, organizations must prioritize safeguarding their most valuable assets through two approaches: implementing best practices such as zero-trust solutions that isolate attacks within specific segments, and tailoring cybersecurity approaches according to industry-specific threats.
In order to bolster their cybersecurity posture, it is crucial for healthcare organizations to obtain stakeholder buy-in on the significance of cybersecurity. This can be achieved by raising awareness about cybersecurity threats through various communication channels, providing training programs that simulate cybersecurity attacks for employees and monitoring employee behavior for anomalous activities that may indicate insider threats.
Securing sensitive patient data in the digital age presents numerous challenges for the healthcare sector. However, by emphasizing strong security measures at every step of the process – from data identification and transfer policies to secure disposal practices – healthcare providers can protect patient confidentiality while facilitating efficient care delivery.