Avoiding Cyberattacks and Maintaining Patient Confidentiality
In any healthcare practice, you’ll need access to substantial amounts of confidential information about your patients. Most (if not all) of this information is typically stored electronically. For ease of access to both doctors and patients, most modern medical practitioners maintain patient data in the cloud. However, data on the cloud is at risk of unauthorized access by hackers or cybercriminals. We detail steps to maximize your cybersecurity and minimize the chances of a data breach.
Tangible Measures You Can Take to Maximize Cybersecurity for Your Medical Practice
You do not need to hire a security expert to reduce the risk of a cyberattack (though it can be extremely helpful to do so). The following simple steps can ensure the confidentiality of your patient information:
- Start by creating a security-focused culture—Most digital security professionals will tell you that common leaks do not occur from complex and well-orchestrated attacks by hackers; they typically result from the careless actions of employees. A security-focused culture can be inculcated by making all of your people aware of the importance of security and of maintaining patient confidence (which equates directly with patient trust). Regular training, security checklists, and security manuals keep employees aware and focused.
- Be particularly careful with mobile devices—Laptops, tablets, and mobile phones make life convenient, but data theft can easily occur through these devices. Because mobile devices transmit and receive data wirelessly, they are vulnerable to hacking. Strong and multifaceted authentication procedures are essential in mobile devices regularly accessing confidential patient information. Mobile devices are also more likely to be seen by outsiders or exposed to electromagnetic interference, which can lead to data corruption.
- Ensure that everyone in your office learns and employs safe computer habits—If you are going to be away from your screen for a significant time, and the computer is in an easily accessible place, shut down the monitor or log off the system. You may also want to set your computer to go to sleep within a short period, say 10 minutes. You may have to log in a few extra times, but you’ll reduce the risk of someone walking by and observing confidential information.
- Have a firewall installed—A solid firewall, installed by a professional, will prevent unwanted intrusions into your system.
- Use antivirus software—Even if you have a firewall, you can still be at risk from certain computer viruses. A robust antivirus program will continually monitor your systems and protect against malicious intruders.
- Set safe and strong passwords—Every station in your system should be password protected, and the passwords should be routinely changed.