Are You Securely Backing up Your Electronic Health and Medical Records?
Human error is still the number one cause of security breaches, accounting for 88 percent. Nearly every month, there is a breaking headline of a cyberattack or a ransomware attack on a healthcare organization. Nevertheless, many healthcare organizations still fail to plan accordingly for these types of attacks, including failing to safeguard electronic health records.
When there are security breaches, the headlines will typically shine a light on the larger healthcare systems, but this does not mean that small and medium-sized healthcare systems are safe from breaches. As a matter of fact, cybercriminals like to go after small practices because they feel there is a greater chance smaller practices may not implement the best practices securing their electronic health records.
Many practices and healthcare facilities lack even the most basic security practices and procedures, lack the proper password policies, and fail to configure the needed security features of their electronic health record (EHR) systems. Many practices and healthcare facilities do not routinely perform risk assessments, despite the requirements established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
What are Electronic Health & Medical Records?
Electronic health records are digital versions of a patient’s paper medical record. Electronic health records contain sensitive and confidential information about patients that is collected by clinicians in a healthcare facility.
What are the privacy risks of Electronic Health & Medical Records?
When many people think of online threats, including hacking, they will generally think about cybercriminals stealing an individual’s financial information, such as credit card information. However, cyber threats and attacks occur in healthcare institutions more often than many people realize. One of the main reasons healthcare facilities are targeted is for non-financial reasons. Electronic health records contain a wealth of information that can be used or sold, including the following:
- Social security numbers
- Home addresses
- Any dates
- Medical histories
- Health plan beneficiary number
- Medical record number
Are Electronic Health Or Medical Records safe?
With the number of threats to medical practices and other healthcare facilities, there is always a question regarding the safety of electronic health records. Electronic health records have become a replacement for paper patient records, and for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Cost-effective and cost-efficient
- Time efficiency
- Improving the overall quality of patient care
- Improving patient-centeredness
However, as with anything we do online, precautions need to be taken to ensure electronic health records do not land in the hands of the wrong people Electronic health records are indeed safe if you take the proper precautions, but EHRs are still vulnerable to threats.
Can Electronic Health & Medical Records be hacked?
By now, you are aware that healthcare data is one of the most popular targets for hacking and phishing attempts. HIPAA is not the easiest law to understand, and this is one of the reasons why so many organizations have such a difficult time complying with the regulations. This is why everyone must be aware that Electronic Health Records are valuable to hackers, and why it is important to safeguard the records to keep them away from hackers.
How are Electronic Health & Medical Records protected?
Although cyberattacks can cost healthcare organizations millions or billions each year, this does not mean Electronic Health Records are completely unsafe. Electronic Health Record systems use data encryption to help protect patient health information when it is transmitted from one user to another, in the same manner, that financial providers will protect financial information and personal data.
When electronic health records are stored or transferred, encryption can be successful at keeping them safe from an attack. If Electronic Health Records are kept safe by encryption, why are there so many stolen, used, sold, etc. electronic health records? One of the biggest problems in the EHR system does not have to do with the system itself, but the handling of the system.
One of the ways a hacker can bypass the encryption is through ransomware. As a result, all practices are encouraged to have an off-site backup, for security purposes and in case of outages and natural disasters. Copies of financial data should also be secured in an off-site location. If there is an off-site backup and the EHR system is compromised, patient data can be secured and restored.
Protecting Electronic Health & Medical Records
Medical practices and other healthcare facilities should take the proper actions to ensure that EHRs are safe, whether they are being accessed by users in the facility or by third parties. Here are some steps that can help healthcare facilities defend their electronic health records and their facilities from cybercriminals:
- Educate staff and patients on electronic health records safety
- Perform regular security risk assessments
- Authenticate users
- Reduce access to files in the office
- Implement a system that encourages users to create strong passwords
- Never leave electronic health records opened
- Maintain an off-site backup
Our goal is not to scare you or deter you away from electronic health records, our goal is to educate and make sure you are aware of the importance of securing your electronic health records. Unfortunately, many medical professionals do not consider how common threats and attacks are in the healthcare industry.
Many medical professionals are also under the impression that a cyberattack will never happen to their facility. It is no longer a question of what if a cyberattack happens, but when will it happen. You have to be prepared because, without the proper precautions, you will feel lost and confused when it actually happens. Loss of patient information can put your medical facility out of operations for days or weeks. Thankfully, if you establish a plan, educate staff and patients on EHR safety, perform security risk assessments, creating strong passwords, and backup your data, your medical facility can continue operating.
At Mathe Inc., we understand the importance of protecting electronic health records, and we also understand how easy it can be for healthcare organizations to lose sight of EHR system protection. Our experts are here to help, and to relieve the stress and frustration of managing infrastructure. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
With over 35 years in the business of supporting and implementing technology for the SME market, and 6 years previously in Corporate IT and Voice. I have seen a great deal of change. The only common thread is I have always focused on the Business Wise application of Technology. We always try to look 5 years ahead of the current technology to make sure our clients are on the right track to meet current and future needs.