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Safeguarding Provider Data: The Critical Role of Network Security in Healthcare

Cybersecurity threats faced by healthcare providers are increasing. See how CertifyOS keeps provider data safe.

The critical role of network security in healthcare

One of the biggest concerns for healthcare providers is the growing number of cybersecurity threats. In 2023, there were 739 healthcare data breaches reported in the USA alone, affecting over 136.1 million patient records. The average cost of these data breaches was estimated to be a whopping $7.13 million. Along with the financial losses, the data breaches affected the healthcare sector’s ability to deliver uninterrupted and satisfactory patient care.

In today’s read, let’s explore how we can protect provider data and the role that network security plays in minimizing these data breaches and losses.

Why Does Provider Data Need Protection?

Provider data includes detailed information about healthcare professionals and organizations, such as names, specializations, services offered, locations, and contact details. This data is important for multiple functions, including patient referrals, insurance claims, and administrative tasks. Many systems and networks access this data daily, resulting in constant back-and-forth communication.

This frequent exchange increases the risk of unauthorized access, breaches, and misuse. For example, cybercriminals may target this data for identity theft or fraudulent billing. Additionally, any breach can lead to significant financial and reputational damage to healthcare organizations, as well as potential harm to patients.

Given these risks, strong network security in healthcare is imperative.

How Network Security & Provider Data Align for a Sole Purpose

Doing paperwork and manually recording data is exhaustive and not in line with modern-day innovation. This is why healthcare organizations use electronic health records (EHR) and practice management systems to make:

  • Information retrieval quick and efficient
  • The process straightforward
  • Healthcare more personalized

However, protecting this data can be tricky. Inevitable challenges that threaten provider data are increasing to an alarming extent. From 2016 to 2021, inadequate data protection affected nearly 42 billion patients in the US alone.

Data can be wrongfully obtained through:

  • Phishing
  • Data breaches
  • Ransomware incidents
  • DDoS attacks

Even though security laws and enactments like HIPAA and HITECH preach data security in healthcare and try to provide secure and foolproof data sharing across healthcare providers, it still doesn’t mean that healthcare is safe.

Thus, for a well-functioning system, EHRs and practice management systems have to be backed by an impenetrable network security system.

What's Different Now? Past vs. Present Network Security

The transition from paper records to computers and finally big data wasn’t smooth because as the IT aspect in healthcare was evolving, so too was the sophistication of malicious actors. Hand-written records of patient information and social security were introduced in the early 1900s, and from then on, technical advancements changed patient documentation in the healthcare field.

Fast forward to the late 1990s, after EHRs were introduced, the need to secure sensitive data increased, and as a result, many software enhancements were made. In 1996, HIPAA was enacted and emphasized the confidentiality of patients and healthcare professionals.

As of now, there are many insightful provider data security practices, like encrypting EHRs and making them safe and secure so that no one can take advantage of sensitive information. But that doesn’t mean that the data is completely safe.

Hackers continue to find new ways to access provider data for malicious purposes, which can severely impact any organization. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate and improve security measures continually.

A simple system for protecting provider data simply isn’t enough anymore. Enabling said system to grow with the challenges of mal-intent is important. Thus, prioritizing efficiency, ease, and strength of your network security is more important than ever.

The Consequences of Failing to Protect Provider Data

Data breaches in a healthcare organization can lead to endless consequences, if protection isn’t prioritized. The qualities of a good healthcare organization aren’t just treating patients up to a commendable standard. It’s also ensuring that every byte of information and useful data is safe and virtually unhackable.

There are many things that can go terribly wrong if provider data is breached, such as:

Financial Risk

Healthcare providers, whether they be doctors, consultants or visiting specialists, can sue a healthcare organization if their information is breached, leaked or made public. This can cause the organization to bear unimaginable losses at the end of the day. Also, data breaches can lead to fraud, data removal, and other devastating problems that could bring financial losses.

Reputation Harm

Healthcare organizations consider the patient’s trust as oxygen and lifeblood—the building block of their reputation. But, one tiny breach and years' worth of trust and hard work go down the drain.

Never-ending Legal Issues

Legal penalties are never a trivial matter for any entity. Healthcare organizations have to comply with the standards and regulations to ensure that provider data is protected. Failure to do so can lead to blacklisting and, ultimately, closure.

Disruption in Services

You can think of it as a total breakdown, and what makes it worse is that it could very well affect patient care. Poorly secured provider data and systems can be easily breached, where systems experience elongated shutdowns. This can lead to hamstringing providers, curtailing billing, and disrupting pharmacy and other key operations.

What Lies Ahead for Provider Data & Network Security?

While cyber threats won’t magically disappear overnight, data security experts are implementing new ways to create formidable network security.

For example, technologies like AI and blockchain are being used to revolutionize data security in healthcare. By blending the speed and efficiency of AI-powered systems with the decentralization of blockchain technology, flawless data security becomes possible. This innovative blend can lead to:

  • Distributing data across a decentralized network, removing a single point of failure
  • Using cryptographic algorithms to protect data and ensure it cannot be breached
  • Making data access tamper-proof and immutable
  • Preventing data fraud, identity theft and other hiccups

Are Cybersecurity Threats Evolving Over Time?

The healthcare sector is under critical threat of data breaches, and the main reason could be the failure to keep up. Older IT technologies that are easier for hackers to penetrate are simply not a priority for replacement compared to other lab and monitoring equipment upgrades.

There's also the rise in the use of linked medical devices, home health equipment, and telehealth services that are linked to network monitoring and tracking systems—increasing the surface area vulnerable to cybercriminals. Because hospitals are twice as willing to pay ransom as other targets, attacks will not go away soon.

Cybercriminals are getting creative with tactics that can seriously hurt healthcare organizations, which is why there is a need for a platform that evolves technologically to combat sophisticated cybersecurity threats in the future—and that’s where Certify comes in.

What Makes Certify Safe?

Strong network security equals better safeguarding of provider data. It might seem like there's not a single data protection system that can tick all of the boxes, but Certify makes your sensitive provider data secure and safely transferable.

Certify follows the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework to protect our network and data. Additionally, we are SOC 2 Type 2 accredited, demonstrating that we have applied for and been granted an accreditation showing that we adhere to the strictest data security protocols.

“Network security is essential for protecting systems, devices, data, and people responsible for driving healthcare forward. Certify is committed to providing robust network security to protect and prevent security threats so that our clients and the nation’s providers can focus on what matters most, and that’s caring for patients.”

-Shannon Kern, Senior Director and Head of Quality, Compliance and Security, Certify

Certify’s Approach to Network Security

Certify’s features and practices that ensure elevated security of provider data include:

  • OWASP Top 10 Proactive Controls. Certify's software development culture is made secure with a wide variety of secure coding techniques. Certify systems utilize a number of services to manage the platform infrastructure, such as daily database backups and other network protocols.
  • Endpoint Protection/System Monitoring. Certify can stop potential security threats with endpoint detection and response, monitoring, and prevention techniques. It uses antivirus and malware protection software, VPN, and a number of data loss protection (DLP) measures.
  • Cryptography. Certify secures and encrypts data at rest, in transit, and in use with restricted logical access, rule sets, and configuration hardening processes to protect our infrastructure and to secure communication.
  • Least Privilege. Authenticated users are granted privileged access according to the least privileges with strong and complex passwords and unique login IDs. Multi-factor authentication is also used to add another layer of protecting accounts. Credentials are disabled when access is no longer required.

Ending Note

Certify ensures that your healthcare organization's provider data is in safe hands while keeping efficiency at the forefront.

Learn more about how Certify can help you with your specific needs by requesting a free demo or contacting a team member at sales@certifyos.com.

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