It’s been a hectic year for the healthcare industry. The pandemic has forced healthcare systems to change how they deliver healthcare services as consumers became unwilling to visit doctor’s offices and hospitals. This has also forced an acceleration of digital transformation in healthcare. At the same time, they faced mounting numbers of ransomware and other cyberattacks aimed at stealing patient data and disrupting healthcare operations.
Providers successfully added virtual doctor visits and expanded the data and services that patients could access online. Many also enabled many non-clinical employees to work from home. 2020 was a year of rapid innovation and deployment of new technologies.
However, these new modes of accessing and sharing healthcare data must be accompanied by updated security technologies and policies. Likewise, remote workers need strong security to ensure that patient information isn’t compromised.
How healthcare is addressing cybersecurity and IT compliance regulations
Now that the pandemic is becoming more manageable, healthcare providers need to upgrade their security technologies and strengthen their IT compliance programs to ensure these new digital services are fully protected.
Healthcare organizations are governed by an array of state and federal requirements, many of them related to the security and privacy of consumer healthcare data. The two best-known regulations are the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
HIPAA regulation applies to the storage, usage, and dissemination of confidential patient healthcare data. The HITECH Act mandates audits of healthcare providers to ensure that they comply with HIPAA. Both carry penalties for noncompliance.
Because healthcare is a highly regulated industry, data breaches cost significantly more than in other industries. Ponemon’s 2020 report found that compliance failures added more than $255,000 to the average cost of a data breach, which, for healthcare providers averaged $7.13 million, the highest of any industry and a 10% increase from 2019.
However, meeting compliance standards is about more than avoiding fines, lawsuits, and mitigation costs—although those are all excellent reasons for having an IT compliance program. A well-communicated compliance program can also be a valuable competitive differentiator from other healthcare providers.
Consumers today are very concerned about data security and identity theft. Media have highlighted multiple breaches at companies ranging from credit monitoring companies and retail outlets to hospital chains. Consumer data, or personally identifiable information (PII), is the most commonly stolen type of data–80% according to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach study.
The fallout from a data breach can be substantial. Criminals can use this data to get fake credit cards, open bank accounts, and obtain prescription medicines under a stolen patient’s name.
Healthcare providers without the security measures in place to keep patient data secure suffer the loss of reputation and business. Lost business costs accounted for nearly 40% of the average total cost of a data breach, according to the IBM/Ponemon Institute’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach study. That 40% includes increased customer turnover, lost revenue due to system downtime, and a diminished reputation which makes acquiring new patients more expensive.
Having a detailed and actively updated IT security compliance program can both prevent breaches and, if there is a breach, mitigate the damage.
Three big advantages of an effective healthcare IT compliance program
Credibility and trust
Implementing a thorough compliance program tells consumers and employees the organization is committed to protecting them from identity theft and fraud. It enhances the provider’s image in the community and increases consumer trust.
Data security and compliance require data to be well organized and accessible. That makes data more useable and useful for analysis and reporting. Data mining can provide insights on improving patient care and treatment, as well as insights for making operations more efficient and cost-effective.
Faster breach response
A compliance plan (based on compliance standards) provides a template for post-breach mediation and communication. A plan will guide not only IT staff and auditors, but your marketing and legal teams and outside stakeholders – auditors, officials, consumers, and even police. Rapid mediation and communication often make a huge difference in minimizing damage and retaining the goodwill of customers.
Is your healthcare business positioned to manage IT security compliance?
With increasingly complex governance, regulation, and compliance rules, most healthcare providers need help from outside experts to understand their IT security options. A third-party IT security consultant or managed security services provider (MSSP) can help evaluate and update your organization’s security technologies and policies. An MSSP can evaluate security practices, as well as provide planning, deployment, and management services to protect your patients and employees from unauthorized access to their personal data.
Balancing consumers’ digital expectations while keeping their personal health information secure is critical to the success of any healthcare organization. TierPoint helps healthcare organizations to safeguard patient and employee data, as well as comply with state and federal regulations. Our experts can design a customized solution that will help meet your security compliance requirements.
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