The digital healthcare revolution is driving both the growth and importance of best practice data security. Healthcare startups must exceed HIPAA standards while avoiding cyberattacks that exploit network vulnerabilities.
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Over the last couple of decades, the world has witnessed a digital revolution that is impacting every sphere of our lives; including the healthcare industry. Whilst this is an exciting change that opens up endless possibilities for healthcare businesses, it also requires an updated perspective on data security. When it comes to healthcare startup 101, having a good understanding of how data compliance impacts your work is necessary, especially if you are utilizing data management software. Putting the time and effort into understanding exactly how the digital revolution has impacted the healthcare industry, and what this means for your business, is undeniably one of the best tips to succeed in a healthcare startup.
As the use of online systems has increased in the healthcare industry, we have also seen a corresponding increase in cyberattacks. Three of the most common of these attacks include:
These types of attacks are focused on the center of wired and wireless networks, which typically serve as the access point for patient data. Common network vulnerability attacks include HTTPS spoofing and address resolution protocol cache poisoning (ARP).
Phishing is one of the most common and dangerous forms of cyberattacks in the healthcare industry. Basically, they involve links or attachments within emails, text messages, or social media containing malware that corrupts and spreads between computers.
Although cyber attacks are most commonly thought of as hackers accessing and stealing data, they can also block systems from being used. Ransomware refers to attacks that access healthcare systems and disable them from being used, harming clinicians’ ability to complete their work.
PHI (protected health information) is the data that all healthcare businesses are required to safe keep. Basically, PHI refers to any data that contains information about the identity, medications, treatments, history, insurance, or medical coverage that could be linked back to an individual. The digital revolution has meant that the majority of healthcare businesses employ vendors to manage or store their patient data, and it is absolutely essential that these systems have comprehensive security measures in place. Within the business plan for your healthcare startup, you need to identify where your compliance risks are, and how you are going to mitigate these if you are planning on using any type of vendor. We understand that wrapping your head around healthcare security standards can take a little time, but it is an essential component of guaranteeing your patients’ privacy.
Within the US, there are specific data security regulations that are required by law. Before you open the doors to your business, you need to ensure you are up to date with the current regulatory compliance for healthcare and have implemented adequate security protocols.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted in 1996, and it is essentially a framework for protecting patient data. Its regulations dictate both physical and electronic safeguards, meaning you need to have CCTV and a security system at the location of stored data, and all of your online systems need to be encrypted, password-protected and have high-quality authentication. HIPAA also requires you to enter into a Business Associate Agreement with any vendors that access your data, and you should be diligent in your assessments of their security protocols. HIPAA breaches incur significant consequences, so it is truly in your (and your patient's) best interest to stay on top of your data security.
HITECH is more specifically focused on ePHI, and it was enacted following the massive increase of electronic health records systems in healthcare. It requires that all users must be able to access their records, allocate their records to a third party, and give consent to share data (in most cases).
Now that you have an understanding of how data security impacts healthcare, let’s take a look at some of the most important measures you should implement.
Two-factor authentication increases the protection of data by requiring two forms of authentication from users trying to access information. This can differ depending on your preferences but some popular options include a password and an SMS code, email confirmation, or biometrics.
Data wiping is a good worst-case scenario option, particularly if an individual loses or misplaces their phone or computer. Data wiping can log users out of applications if they have been inactive for a certain period of time or enact an automatic deletion of data after a specified number of unsuccessful log-on attempts.
Secure sockets layer (SSL) technology increases data security by encrypting information whilst it is being transmitted from an app to a server. This means that even if a hacker gains access to the data, they will be unable to read it.
If you can access any health data from a mobile device, it is essential that it is secure. This means the device should be password-protected, have two-factor authentication and all stored data needs to be encrypted.
In order to ensure the security measures in place are successful, you should be consistently running app tests. Data analysis will reveal any areas within your apps that are vulnerable or require further security, in addition to alerting you to available updates.
In addition to having strict data access measures, you should also control and monitor all usage. This will prohibit any unauthorized sharing, storing, or copying data. Data usage control will also alert you to potentially harmful access, allowing you to identify and eliminate cyber-attacks in their early stages.
Staff and personnel training is one of the most important elements of managing data security. You should be running regular training programs to ensure your staff members are up-to-date with current security regulations and equipped with the relevant knowledge. Having prepared and responsible staff is also a fantastic marketing strategy for healthcare businesses as it demonstrates to patients that their data is in safe hands.
Data security is one of the most important aspects of working in the healthcare industry but it is also unfortunately one of the most complicated. As the usage of technology within healthcare has increased, it has become more important than ever to familiarize yourself with security protocols. Fortunately, certain resources have been developed to assist with data security and managing ePHI, including predictive modeling and using data warehouses in healthcare.