Importance of Cybersecurity in Hospitals

Did you know that healthcare cybersecurity attacks doubled in 2020, with ransomware accounting for 28% of all attacks? Or that overall, the healthcare industry is the seventh most targeted out of all sectors?

All of which is to say that for a hospital (or any other healthcare provider, for that matter), cybersecurity in healthcare should be at the top of your priority list.

Here’s a look at why cybersecurity for hospitals is so important–and how you can get smart about your risk management process.

The Role of Healthcare Information Security

For those in healthcare, it’s quite easy to focus on your biggest concern: patient safety. After all, your patients are your foremost priority. The problem, of course, is that in order to protect patient safety, you need strong cybersecurity.

Global healthcare got a cybersecurity alarm bell with the 2017 WannaCry attack, which took down the United Kingdom’s entire National Health Service. Yet global enforcement of healthcare cybersecurity is inconsistent at best, and many U.S. healthcare providers lag behind other industries in terms of cyber readiness.

Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of the problem, many hospitals and healthcare providers are still lagging behind. This is partially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with hospitals still stretching capacity. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic is also a global wake-up call that healthcare infrastructure must be resilient. And if you’re not cyber-resilient, your hospital is not ready for a crisis.

Why Hospitals Get Hit

While you might be focused on broken bones, oxygen levels, or drug dosage–in other words, the physical aspects of healthcare–the reality is that we live in a data-driven age, and healthcare is no exception. In fact, healthcare now relies on Big Data to innovate and drive positive patient outcomes.

Unfortunately, this also makes healthcare providers high-value targets for cybercriminals and non-state actors.

Healthcare providers are treasure troves of valuable data, including:

  • Personally identifiable information

  • Protected health information

  • Private financial information

  • Intellectual property

In fact, stolen healthcare records are ten times more valuable than credit cards on the black market. After all, credit cards tend to be quickly canceled once fraud is detected, but medical identity theft often goes undetected for years, which gives criminals years to milk stolen data in order to create fake IDs for the purchase and resale of drugs and medical equipment or to file false claims with insurance providers. Worse, hospitals tend to have weak security, which makes it quite easy for hackers to snatch valuable data.

The High Cost of a Data Breach

This is more than just a risk to your patients’ privacy. It’s also a threat to your entire healthcare organization.

According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach for 2021 is around $4.24 million. In fact, 2021 had the highest average data breach cost in the breach report’s 17-year history. 20% of breaches were caused by compromised credentials, and the average cost of a breach was $1.07 million higher in workplaces with widespread remote work.

What does that mean for healthcare specifically? As of 2019, more than 25 million patient records were breached, and the average large healthcare organization incurs $23.3 million in direct and indirect losses as a result of a cybersecurity incident.

Why You Need Hospital Network Security

If those seem like mind-boggling numbers, that’s because the impact of poor cybersecurity runs far deeper than simply patient privacy or a virus in your network. The reality is that in order to run a healthcare business, you need strong hospital network security in order to ensure business continuity.

Here are three reasons why you can’t afford to neglect network security–in terms that you can pitch to your budget committee.

HIPAA Compliance

For healthcare providers, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is the byword you live and die by. Without HIPAA compliance, your organization cannot provide medical care.

HIPAA was originally drafted as a way to protect patient information. This includes everything from a conversation between doctor and patient to private medical data on the patient’s record. Basically, as a healthcare provider, you have a legal obligation to protect your patient’s privacy.

That sounded relatively straightforward back when patient data was contained in physical records. These days, though, you have more data sources than ever before–everything from a smartwatch to a smart bed to a portable medical device can now provide valuable patient data.

This presents a twofold challenge since data sharing happens between two parties (patients and healthcare providers). Plus, healthcare providers have to remove a lot of patient data provided for medical studies. In other words, you need successful confidentiality all the way around–and the only way to get there is with a robust risk management program.

Data Security Standards

Another major reason to push for cybersecurity is compliance–with HIPAA and with other key regulations. Otherwise, you won’t be able to continue providing healthcare to your patients and customers.

Some major healthcare data security laws include:

The good news is that many regulators now provide cybersecurity frameworks for your organization to draw on, like the DHS CISA healthcare cybersecurity framework or the NIST Health Information Technology framework. The tricky part? Figuring out how to get your organization compliant with each disparate law and framework and how to maintain compliance as the laws evolve.

How We Can Help with Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Cybersecurity in healthcare can often feel like staring up at Mount Everest. Especially if you’re trying to do everything manually. But with the right tools, healthcare risk management doesn’t need to be a headache.

That’s where we come in, with healthcare risk management solutions designed for the unique challenges of the healthcare industry. We make it easy to ask the right question to the right vendor at the right moment so that you can make informed decisions for your cybersecurity.

So if you’re ready for a smarter way to handle cybersecurity, get in touch today to learn how our solutions can help.


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