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8 Ways to Protect Your Healthcare Organization from a Data Breach

Last year there were 328 data breaches of healthcare organizations. That’s a new record, up from 268 the previous year. In these breaches, the records of approximately 16.6 million Americans were exposed. These incidents occurred at all types of organizations in the industry, including clinics, insurance providers and their healthsystem business associates.

If you’re in the healthcare industry, here are eight steps you can take to ensure that your organization isn’t the next one in the news.

#1. Continually Evaluate HIPAA Compliance

You’re in healthcare, so you already know about HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that safeguards Protected Health Information (PHI). Fines for non-compliance can reach millions of dollars and even include jail time, which should be enough to ensure that you take HIPAA seriously. But you should also think of HIPAA as a solid starting point for avoiding major cybersecurity threats.

HIPAA requires annual risk assessments, and it’s not a bad idea to assess your security and compliance even more frequently. In a typical organization a lot of changes are made in a year, including new software implementations and upgrades, employee turnover and role changes, or mergers and acquisitions—all of which can create vulnerabilities. These assessments are also a great chance to evaluate your internal security policy and incident response plan.

#2. Educate Your Employees

We all worry about the nefarious hacker, lurking in a dark room and furiously typing code to steal your organization’s records. The truth is that one of the leading causes of healthcare data breaches in 2016 was employee error.

Make sure that all employees in your organization know what personal information can be shared with patients, caregivers, and others according to HIPAA and any state regulations you need to follow. Give your employees a test of their security knowledge or run simulations through phone calls and emails, and reward the employees who respond correctly.

#3. Manage Roles and Access

Keeping medical records secure can be a challenge because they pass through so many hands, but the access that a doctor needs is different than that of a member of the finance or IT staff. It’s essential that every user has an individual account with role-based access appropriate for their position. The IT administrator should also have full visibility into who accesses or manipulates what data and when, so they can identify suspicious activity such as downloading large volumes of data to an unknown IP address.

#4. Subnet Your Network

It may seem like a basic mistake to an IT or security professional, but you might be surprised how many healthcare providers leave patient records exposed to anyone who accesses the publicly available internet. Subnetting, or creating separate subnetworks, allows you to set aside part of your network for the public and others (with more security) for any applications that touch medical records or credit cards.

#5. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

The standard username and password isn’t secure enough for users who need to access private patient information. Multi-factor authentication typically requires at least two of the following: something you know (like your password), something you have (like a token), or something you are (like a fingerprint). A 2015 report by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT found that, while hospital support for multi-factor authentication had risen by 53 percent since 2010, only half of small urban hospitals were capable of it. Fifty-nine percent of medium and 63 percent of large institutions had the capability.

If you are a healthcare organization that still doesn’t support multi-factor authentication, it’s a key step to take toward securing your data.

#6. Protect Devices and Be Cautious with BYOD

The majority of healthcare data breaches occur not because of hackers, but because of stolen or lost devices. For devices owned by your organization, make sure they are encrypted and that you have the ability to wipe them remotely.

You should also adopt strong security measures in your BYOD policy. Employees will want to have the convenience of easily accessing PHI from their tablets, laptops, or mobile phones, but if one of these devices falls into the wrong hands, the result could be devastating to your company. Here are some steps you should take in your BYOD policy:

  • Require strong authentication methods
  • Don’t allow medical records to be stored on employee devices
  • Prevent devices from connecting to healthcare applications beyond a certain distance from your facility

#7. Ensure Business Associates are Protecting PHI

Healthcare providers rely on a wide network of associated companies and services. Business associates of organizations that must comply with HIPAA are also held to HIPAA standards for protecting patient data and will be fined if they fail to do so. Your business associate agreements with these organizations should be tailored to both HIPAA and any state regulations that apply to your organization. The associates should be required to develop internal processes to assess security, and discover and report data breaches. Choose business partners that are agreeable to complying with security best practices or they will be a liability.

#8. Encrypt Data at Rest and in Transit

HIPAA states that covered entities should “implement a mechanism to encrypt PHI whenever deemed appropriate.” That can be a little hard to interpret, but regardless of HIPAA or other regulations, strong encryption is the best way to protect your data.

HIPAA also says that if encrypted data is stolen, the incident does not constitute a data breach. In other words, you can avoid damaging your reputation by having to notify your patients, the media, and the government by using encryption.

managed file transfer solution can encrypt your files both at rest and in transit using modern, secure encryption methods. Good MFT software will help ensure that you stay up-to-date as encryption standards change over time, while also making your data transfers simple to manage and audit.

To find out how GoAnywhere MFT can help you stay HIPAA compliant, download the guide.

 


Why Healthcare Organizations Need a Managed File Transfer Solution

Anmed health clinic

 

Last year was a scary year in healthcare cybersecurity. A hack of Banner Health breached up to 3.7 million records. Another data breach at 21st Century Oncology resulted in multiple lawsuits being filed against the organization. When a third party gained unauthorized access to computer systems at Valley Anesthesiology and Pain Consultants, almost 900 thousand patients, employees, and providers had to be notified. These are just a few examples of the biggest incidents in the news—smaller security failures are happening all the time.

Patient records are extremely sensitive, so healthcare organizations have to be especially vigilant about securing their data. Additionally, they need to be able to prove compliance with HIPAA. In an industry that involves constantly moving and updating patient records, maintaining security and compliance requires a robust method of protecting any transfer of data. That’s why no healthcare cybersecurity strategy is complete without a managed file transfer (MFT) solution.

Why Not Use a Basic File Transfer Tool?

Many EHR or network monitoring software already implemented within a healthcare organization include some secure file transfer capabilities, so it’s easy for IT professionals to ask: “Why not just stick with the basics?” While some of the add-on file transfer tools may protect sensitive data in transit, there are several crucial features that a complete managed file transfer solution can perform.

Supports varied platforms, protocols and encryptions: A good managed file transfer platform will support a variety of protocols, such as SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS, and encryption standards like AES and Open PGP. It may be necessary to select different methods for each transfer based on your partner’s requirements.

Centralized system for organized monitoring and reporting: For many healthcare organizations, regular monitoring and reporting of file transfers is a requirement for compliance adherence. The ideal MFT solution provides a single tool capable of handling all your transfers out of one area, whether that be server-to-server batch file transfers, user-to-user ad-hoc file transfers and person-to-person file collaboration. A centralized area simplifies the ability to monitor and report all transfer activity.

Controls user access: HIPAA requires that organizations prevent unauthorized access to files. Of course, this can mean hackers with malicious intent, but you should also have protocols in place to protect data from internal actors. A 2015 study found that internal actors were responsible for 43% of data loss. That includes both intentional and accidental security failures.

MFT software with role-based security options can limit each user to the servers and the functions of managed file transfer that they absolutely need to use. Individual files and folders can be restricted to certain users or user groups. Since every user has a unique user ID, all their activity can be tracked—essential if you face an audit.

Facilitates HIPAA compliance: Modern IT environments and the volume of electronic records stored by healthcare organizations are far larger and more complex than what existed HIPAA was first enacted. Although many organizations got by with FTP-based tools or custom scripts in the past, the best way to meet HIPAA requirements today is with an easy-to-use, comprehensive managed file transfer platform.

In addition to providing the required security protocols and encryption, a good MFT tool will generate detailed audit trails and reporting of every file transfer, identifying the users, the recipients, and the file names transmitted. Just what an auditor needs to see.

Simplifies and automates transfers: Configuring each file transfer in a way that is secure, compliant, and meets the individual needs of each business partner is extremely time consuming. Too many manual steps in the transfer process can make a high volume of file transfers impossible to manage, not to mention error-prone. The automation capabilities of managed file transfer software can streamline data transfer processes and reduce the potential for mistakes.

Case in Point: 
AnMed Health Saves 500+ Hours of Manpower Each Month

Anmed health clinicWhen health system AnMed Health made the decision to replace outdated file transfer systems with GoAnywere MFT, their new ability to support SFTP and PGP encryption increased the number of vendors AnMed could perform simplified, and secured transfers with.

But that wasn’t the only benefit. Using managed file transfer eliminated the need for third-shift data center staffing and saved programming, operations, and network staff over 500 hours a month. How much money do you estimate that 500 hours a month could save your healthcare organization?

Another useful improvement was automatic notifications and greater visibility into the status of file transfers. Previously, the AnMed Health team often only found out about a problem when they received a call from a vendor.  A robust MFT solution will alert you if something goes wrong, allowing you to attack the issue without delay.

Ready to see for yourself? Schedule a demo of GoAnywhere MFT to see how easily your file transfer process can be secured, automated and centralized.