Medical offices of any kind already have a lot to be concerned with. Every day, these people are doing what they can to help others; sometimes, in a life or death situation. So, it’s understandable that your office may not have the time to worry about cyber security and hackers. After all, you’re way too busy helping patients, dealing with insurance companies, calling in prescriptions, and organizing paperwork to even have time to think about that.
However, that’s no excuse to neglect the need for cyber security. As a matter of fact, those who work in medical offices are held to a much higher standard: HIPAA. HIPAA laws need to be taken very seriously, and because data breaches are on the rise, now is the time to make sure you and your patients are protected. Here’s why:
In Today’s World, Everything is Digitized
Unless your doctor’s office is still in the medieval era, it’s likely that most of the day to day work happens on the computer. Nowadays, patients’ records are usually stored on a database of some kind, that lists everything from their recent surgeries and current symptoms to their insurance information and personal address.
Electronic Medical Records or Electronic Health Records, make it very easy for medical offices to keep tabs on patients. In the past, files were handwritten and kept in overflowing cabinets. In case of an emergency, it may have been difficult for a secretary to dig out information on a patient in a hurry. Thanks to EMR, doctors can quickly find out if a patient has any allergies or what their recent medical history is.
So, while it’s great that everything is organized this way, it can put patients at risk, as well as the offices that serve them. If a medical office is not cyber-compliant, a data breach can steal all that sensitive information. When a medical office needs to follow HIPAA laws, this could be business-ending.
There Has Been a Rise in Hacks on Medical Offices
Over the last few years, hackers have realized that there’s a lot they can benefit from by breaching a medical office. According to IBM’s Security Intelligence blog, the healthcare industry has ranked #1 in compromised records. You may recall the major breach on Anthem, Inc. that exposed nearly 80 million patient records back in 2015.
Remember, small businesses are especially vulnerable to attacks. So, if you’re a small business in the healthcare industry, your risk can be that much higher.
But, Why Would a Hacker Want This Information?
Good question. Why would a hacker want access to sensitive medical information in the first place? There’s really nothing useful for them on those forms, anyway, right?
Medical records or any kind of patient record can possess social security numbers and credit card numbers. But, beyond that, hackers can also use your private medical information against you to file fraudulent medical claims or even get access to prescription drugs. Additionally, hackers can use medical information to blackmail patients by using Malware. This type of hack is known as “Spear phishing,” and it’s done by referencing a patient’s sensitive information while pretending to be their employer, doctor, or someone else who would seemingly be the only person who would have access to that kind of information.
If You Fail to Comply, Expect a Lawsuit and/or Government Intervention
Without trying to scare you, it’s important to note that data breaches can happen to anyone. But, that’s precisely why protecting yourself is important now more than ever. If you run a medical office or any other type of business that’s required to observe HIPAA laws, then you must be cyber compliant.
While cyber compliance doesn’t necessarily protect you against a breach, it does protect you from a lawsuit or government action, which can almost be expected when you’re dealing with patients’ information. Hiring a validated, unbiased third party to evaluate your exposure and patch up any holes can help protect you if a hack should occur. These experts will issue you an official, cyber-compliant document that demonstrates to lawyers or government officials that you took the necessary steps to protect your office and your patients.