What is the First Step in Mitigating Cyber Threats for Healthcare Organizations?

  • January 4, 2018 - by Synoptek
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Medical devices, electronic medical records, bedside life support systems, online patient information access, and mobile innovations have made cybertechnology and security critical to health care delivery. Technological security challenges are complex for those striving to deliver 24/7 access, meet Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy requirements, use the latest apps, and employ new medical devices. Fortunately, these new challenges are surmountable.

All-too-real data breach and cybersecurity threat issues force health insurance company leaders, medical care providers, and other industry professionals to devote considerable resources to maintaining and improving protection. In the first nine months of 2016 alone, there were 268 incidents in which hackers accessed protected health information or other medical data. The number of incidents grew during each of the first three quarters last year with nearly half occurring in quarter three.

Health care industry insiders can expect a similarly daunting or even worse cybersecurity picture in 2018. With data and reputation risks continuing to escalate, many decision-makers are attempting to accelerate their cybersecurity vigilance and initiatives.

Manage the threat alone or with help

Given the ongoing threat, health care industry executives know they need to better manage their cybersecurity risks. The question remains: How can they best accomplish this mission? Is it more cost-effective to ward off cyber threats using in-house or outsourced resources? Considerations beyond budgetary constraints include:

  • state-of-the-art expertise in a rapidly changing environment
  • ability to scale efforts efficiently
  • staffing concerns
  • developing a costly but underutilized IT infrastructure
  • accountability and service levels
  • and more

Start with an IT risk assessment

The first step in determining the right path is a thorough IT risk assessment. This includes protecting patient data, backing up systems for facilities and critical machinery, maintaining robust security procedures and actual practices, as well as being able to access real-time support to ensure cyber doors are available when authenticated health care professionals need entry.

Security solution experts have the difficult task of providing bulletproof security while making it reasonably available for vetted personnel to access and use the systems. Effective security protocols should balance their need to mitigate threats with other realistic needs in healthcare settings, such as allowing temporary and regular personnel access to patient charts without workarounds.

Another key step is determining whether it makes sense to develop internal IT systems expertise, contract with a managed services provider to augment in-house staff for a hybrid IT solution, or to outsource IT completely. For many in the industry, a practical and proactive approach is establishing a relationship with a managed services provider to bolster in-house security and capabilities.

The right partner, the right relationship

Partnering with a managed services provider can free up staff and resources to better focus on and support patient needs. However, finding the right provider can be a daunting task.

Hospital decision-makers, health care providers, and clinic leaders typically decide to supplement their existing IT team with managed services providers with expertise in cybersecurity, data center backups, disaster recovery, and other areas critical to healthcare operations. However, given the countless providers claiming expertise in the security arena, it’s important chosen providers have considerable experience supporting healthcare firms on a 24/7 basis. For example, the trusted professionals at Synoptek Managed IT Services have been providing a vast range of IT solutions for clients in the healthcare industry for more than 20 years.

At Synoptek, we offer a range of support relationships that meet and exceed today’s security, access, and HIPAA-compliance challenges. Strategic planning, risk assessment, “IT Security as a Service” models, cloud hosting, proactive monitoring and management, disaster recovery, and a 24/7 U.S.-based help staff are just some of the options and solutions available. Contact us for more information.

About the Author

Synoptek is an established firm that provides information systems consulting and IT management services. Synoptek and its predecessors have been providing these services for 23 years.