Your practice’s EHR contains a wealth of personal information that is extremely attractive to hackers. Small practices don’t usually consider hackers to be a threat because they don’t store as much data as larger practices. The truth is, no practice is safe. In fact, smaller practices may be even more appealing to hackers because they know they won’t need to get past the sophisticated cybersecurity systems that larger healthcare organizations employ.
Current, updated security measures are critical to protecting your practice and patients’ PHI. Also, if any type of data breach occurs, it’s imperative that it’s handled correctly, with the proper organizations being notified. The good news is there are simple security measures you can take to better prepare for a cyberattack before it occurs.
Simple, Practical Measures to Boost Cybersecurity
- Train Your Staff. The majority of security breaches start with a staff member. Most hackers target your business through employee accounts. This can mean stealing a device, sending a phishing email, or accessing records through an open portal. The best way to protect your practice from these attacks is to make sure that staff receives regular training on the latest security threats that might impact their daily work. The training can be simple: how to identify safe and unsafe links in an email, or making certain all computers are password protected at all times, are great places to start.
- Invest in Good, Layered Defense Software. Your cybersecurity software should include more than a single anti-virus program. If you use tools such as anti-malware, anti-virus, and a firewall, you’ll have a more comprehensive system to catch threats before they infect your network. You can also employ an in-house or contract IT team to act as cybersecurity experts, and ensure all of your programs are up to date.
- Separate Personal and Professional Devices. Personal phones, laptops, and iPads aren’t usually equipped with the same security measures that you should be using in your practice. While you can add these defense programs to personal devices, it’s better to keep your personal devices completely separate from work devices for an added layer of protection. Personal laptops or mobile phones left in locations accessible to the public can pose a significant and unnecessary risk.
- Devise A Password Protocol for Your Office. Password protection is an important aspect of security measures. Employees should use unique, difficult-to-guess passwords which should be changed periodically. The same password should never be used for more than one website or Again, keep your personal passwords separate from your professional passwords, and encourage your staff to do the same.
- Employee Theft Protocol. Occasionally, employees might purposely put patients or your practice at risk. While rare, it can happen. It’s important to implement a protocol to prevent current or former employees from breaching your data. A system that assigns a unique, trackable login to every person who needs to access records can be a good way to view employee activity within your system.
- Encrypt All Patient Information. Patient information should be encrypted at all times, and employees should only have access to data that they need to perform their job functions. Accessing PHI at any time other than to perform essential job functions could potentially result in a HIPAA violation.
- Regular Security Risk Analysis. Perform an office-wide security risk analysis to analyze any issues with your security It’s recommended to reassess your security on a regular basis – at least every six months, or on an annual basis.
- Develop a Security Breach Plan. In the event you do have a security breach, it’s important to be prepared to act quickly and with precision. Developing a plan ahead of time will give you the tools you need to make the right decisions at the right time.
These simple security measures can protect your practice from hackers, ensuring your patients’ PHI remains private and in the hands of only those who are committed to helping them stay physically well.