How to Protect Healthcare Data from Cyber Attacks

Updated on April 28, 2017

Like every market, the healthcare industry is highly reliant on IT to operate successfully. For example, remote monitoring systems and connected patient care technologies are forecasted to dominate the future of our healthcare systems. For people with chronic conditions, these advances make it easier for long-term collaboration with healthcare providers to manage conditions efficiently and effectively.

However, with these great advances also come great challenges. Last year alone medical organizations, such as private practices and healthcare facilities, paid more than $23 million in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) fines due to breaches in “secure servers.” Many medical industry professionals predict that 2017 will be another record-breaking year in terms of fines collected by the government for non-compliance.

Financial penalties are only part of the problem though. The repercussions extend to overall operations, and patient safety and confidence. Healthcare organizations need to have comprehensive procedures that can protect patient data. HIPAA compliance is only one aspect, as medical facilities must also have stout polices for cybersecurity to protect electronic health records.

Given these considerations, many medical organizations rely on third-party specialists, such as Pinnacle Consulting Group and its family of technology companies. With experience that extends beyond healthcare and into other industries such as pharmaceutical, manufacturing, law, accounting, and financial services, Pinnacle’s IT consultants have the expertise to help protect Health Information Technology (HIT) networks from cybercriminals. From HIPAA training and vulnerability assessments to penetration tests and managed services, the proper HIT partner can help keep healthcare facilities safe and secure.

HIPAA Compliance

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, healthcare providers are required to protect and keep any personal health information safe and confidential. The rule also sets standards on how private data can be used and disclosed with or without patient authorization. This act, however, does not only apply to care providers. It also grants patients the right to their health information, including obtaining a copy of their medical records, as well as requesting corrections. Through these electronic health transactions, safeguards must be taken to prevent cybercriminals from breaching a medical organization’s network.

When a single employee’s actions result in a HIPAA violation, not only are there major consequences for that individual, but for the entire healthcare facility which is put in jeopardy for potential violations that can damage an organization’s reputation. This, is more costly than a fine. To succeed in today’s integrated, electronic environment which relies heavily on HIT, it is important that all healthcare employees, from nurses to waiting room receptionists, have a full understanding of HIPAA regulations to effectively manage both clinical and administrative information to prevent disastrous violations.

Training Services

For these reasons, the importance of having qualified personnel can’t be understated. Keeping employees updated on HIPAA regulations can be accomplished through training courses, such as those offered by the Pinnacle Center for Professional Development. These online HIPAA training classes help ensure staff compliance within a healthcare system. Pinnacle’s comprehensive training courses are tailored specifically to an organization’s needs, covering topics such as HIPAA rules and regulations, compliance training, electronic health records and more.

If you need to add personnel to your IT team, Pinnacle Consulting Group offers staff augmentation that includes a robust vetting process for every candidate. The goal of these services is to make healthcare organizations safer and more secure.

Protecting Your HIT Systems

A data breach has a far-reaching impact. Protecting HIT systems requires regular analysis and testing. A patient’s health information travels through a network, from devices to apps via the internet, and through the cloud to reach physicians and payers. This is where breaches pose the greatest threat. While traveling to and through the cloud or a centralized database, cybercriminals only need to exploit one vulnerability on a healthcare system’s network to compromise millions of patients’ records. Last year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reported more than 113 million medical records were compromised due to vulnerabilities within IT systems.

This is another area where Pinnacle Consulting Group can help. Our team of experts offer a range of services to create solutions to help maximize your technology potential in a safe and unified database. Through a complete computer security audit, Pinnacle evaluates, develops, and implements a comprehensive plan for your business, ranking priorities to help build your IT environment efficiently, on your own timeline and within your budget. More importantly, Pinnacle can design a system to fit your current needs, and anticipate your future growth.

To help gauge your network security, our team offers key services such as:

  • Vulnerability Assessments – A valuable tool that can greatly benefit your information security program. This process is used to help answer the question: “What are our weaknesses and how do we fix them?” Through an in-depth evaluation of your overall information security plan, our team will crawl through your system to evaluate and find weaknesses within your networks. Pending the findings, tactics are then developed to plan and implement a more mature, integrated mitigation strategy to protect the safety of patient data.
  • Penetration Tests – Through manual or automated technologies that systematically compromise servers, wireless networks, and any additional points of exposure, penetration tests, also known as pen tests, stimulate the actions of an external or internal cybercriminal. These exposed spots may exist in operating systems, application flaws, or bad configurations. By identifying these defects, our team can determine whether a system is susceptible to an attack, and how sensitive data can be accessed. While objectives of these tests may vary, the primary goal is to understand the potential impact for your healthcare facility and provide a snapshot of your security program’s overall effectiveness.
  • Managed Services – Cyber criminals don’t sleep, so you need IT security 24/7/365. Medical organizations can offload IT operations to a provider such as Pinnacle, who assumes an ongoing responsibility for round-the-clock monitoring, managing and problem solving. One of the biggest benefits of managed services is the discovery of potential system problems so they can be addressed before they disrupt employees, management, or patients. Establishing well-maintained, 24-hour monitoring, emergency response teams and cloud services is always a better option than the alternative.

Saving Money

When lawmakers enacted HIPAA back in 1996, the goal was to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of electronic protected health information that is created, received, used, or maintained by a covered entity – not to collect tens of millions of dollars in fines. With HIPAA being only one of the many threats IT professionals face every day, Pinnacle and its family of technology companies can deliver supportive services that offer simple and smart solutions to make sure you won’t be the next medical organization hit with a violation, data breach or other cyber attack.

Have an IT question unrelated to the healthcare industry, Pinnacle’s got it covered. Whether it’s integrated business applications, international network infrastructure support, or simple desktop support, our experts are trained across a variety of services to meet your IT needs, regardless of the industry.

Contact us today to learn more about our portfolio of IT consulting services and how we can assist you.