In the world today, security is amongst the key concerns that affect all aspects of life. The healthcare sector is not immune to security threats. The use of information technology in the sector and digitization of health records through the use of electronic health records (EHR) increases the chances of loss of data as a result of data theft, data corruption, or both. As such, the security of the activities of healthcare centers is essential for the integrity of the care that is given to patients.
Healthcare centers must try to prevent data compromise in order to safeguard their operations. Also, the sharing of patient records is at the core of the connectivity and collaboration that exists between different healthcare centers. However, this provides a potential point of loss of critical health and financial information.
Potential Threats to Security in Healthcare
There are several sources of threats that may affect security in the healthcare system. Some of the main threats include the following.
Virus and malware
Malware or viruses that maliciously affect files and illegally gain access to login details can leave computers vulnerable. It usually takes a single point of weakness for the entire system to be infested and overwhelmed. Also, hackers use dodgy emails that mimic those that come from reputable companies to try and trick unsuspecting staff into giving out confidential information.
Access using portable devices
Several healthcare centers have become accessible via portable mobile devices. Medical personnel and patients require only iPads or smartphones to have access to patients’ records and other relevant information. All that is required is a device and login details with minimal security protocols. However, this exposes the entire system to the malicious activities of hackers and the deadly effect of malware.
Internal misuse of IT system
In many cases, medical personnel is usually the primary source of healthcare security breaches. There are several known cases of stolen or compromised information as a result of deliberate action by disgruntled healthcare persons who aim to destroy the reputation of a particular healthcare facility. In other instances, some persons gain employment into specific healthcare centers to cause security breaches for financial gain, blackmail, identity theft, or extortion.
Interaction with third-party service providers
Service providers are sometimes real sources of security risk in hospitals and clinics. These service providers include cleaning services, utility maintenance companies, online payment services, and other auxiliary service providers.
The employees of these companies can quickly gain access to sensitive information, which can become a massive problem for the safety of patients and medical personnel. Also, payment service providers may have weak security systems that allow hackers access to patients’ financial information such as credit and debit card details, which can lead to theft of money.
Old or stolen devices
In certain circumstances, stolen or discarded devices are potential sources of security risks. Such devices may still have vital login details, which have been stored and may be utilized to gain access to sensitive information. Crooks that can get such devices can easily use them for nefarious activities.
Ways of Mitigating Security Risks
There are several ways of preventing or reducing the security risks to the healthcare centers. These include the following:
- Hackers are always ready to take full advantage of the weakness of older versions of software that have security loopholes. Periodic software updates are essential in providing a robust and secure network of computers and devices. In some cases, automatic updates are mandated to processes such as passwords and recovery options to improve security.
- Medical staffs must be trained and retrained on cybersecurity and risks of loss of data. This process is essential to ensure that each person knows of the best ways to identify, deal with, and prevent potential security threats.
- Introduction of new and effective processes and procedures of operation within a healthcare center that can secure networks and devices. These procedures are expected to be standard and straightforward to adhere to such that all personnel can adapt with ease. Sometimes it is better and more effective to accompany new procedures together with training seminars.
- Hospitals and clinics are expected to institute protocols that govern the use of new and existing devices. Also, protocols must exist for old devices before they are discarded to prevent the possibility of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.