Guest Column | May 30, 2019

Healthcare Organizations Need To Get Serious About Managing Risk

By Manolito Jones, Lockpath

Risk Decision

The healthcare industry is a high-pressure, life-impacting industry which can be made even more complicated by the growing number of regulatory requirements. Many of the most challenging mandates are focused on securing critical data and systems within the organizations infrastructure. If not secured properly, cyber threats can be the outcome and are usually associated with insufficient controls, employee risks and negligence.

The IT infrastructure and how it operates is more crucial now than ever in the healthcare industry. It needs to be powerful enough to respond immediately to patient and staff needs, detailed enough to provide all the crucial data, available for immediate access by authorized individuals and secure enough to protect some of the most valuable personally identifiable information (PII) hackers look to steal.

Integrating new technology and information security are an increasingly valuable commodity for healthcare systems. For example, the patient portal has been a helpful tool for patients to access their health records, which means it needs the most up-to-date technology to protect patient information.

IT and technology have opened the door to information sharing across practitioners, facilities, patient communication and internal operational efficiency, creating better outcomes for patients. This also has produced increasing amounts of digital data and IT complexity which has expanded the attack surface for cyber criminals who want to access patient data. While the technological advancements constitute very positive news for delivering a higher quality of care, healthcare organizations often lack the internal cybersecurity strategy needed, putting the organization at a high risk for a breach.

Every organization in any industry faces significant risks to brand, financials and even viability when faced with a major breach. However, in healthcare, there is the additive threat of discontinuity of patient care. For these reasons, it is essential to structure the cybersecurity program to proactively manage cybersecurity risks—and by comprehensively managing risk, organizations can meet compliance requirements and improve their overall security posture in parallel.

One way in which healthcare organizations can improve managing risk is by implementing a continuous security monitoring platform that works in tandem with an integrated risk management solution (IRM). These will streamline and automate processes, offer a real time view of security status and correlate data to provide more accurate information for decision making.

It’s essential to have both IRM and a continuous security monitoring platform that can bring in enterprisewide scans of technology and data assets to ensure that healthcare organizations know where their most valuable data is stored, who has access and how it is configured so protective measures are applied according to business priorities. Once all these streams of information have been combined and aligned with regulatory and business requirements, it is easier to create remediation workflows and audit-ready proof of compliance.

Without the comprehensive automation, insight, tracking and reporting enabled by purpose-built integrated risk management solutions; healthcare organizations are dangerously exposed to attacks from multiple directions. Data breaches carry consequences ranging from fines, legal expenses and reputational damage to devastating loss of PII. In an era where the healthcare industry is under intense public scrutiny, there is little room for error. Any organization that can prove above-and-beyond compliance through efficient collaboration and zero-finding audit results will have a distinct and sustainable advantage over competitors struggling with outdated processes that leave gaping holes in security coverage.

Comprehensive IRM platforms and continuous security monitoring solutions can positively impact operations across the enterprise, effectively removing barriers between business, IT, research, engineering and business associates—barriers that introduce security vulnerabilities, slow progress and obscure contextual awareness. Correlated data and real-time reporting are essential to decision making at every level. This integration adds value and collaborative potential for multiple stakeholders through centralized dashboards, visual reporting tools and interactive workflow and policy mapping. The 360-degree contextual awareness that develops from this shared information can empower an organization to attain new levels of security and risk management. When everyone from executive leadership to compliance managers has the correct level of access to current policies and reports, it is possible to build a robust culture of compliance, leading to safer patient data and a reputation for operational excellence.

In an increasingly digitized world characterized by layer upon layer of complexity and regulation, manual processes can only lead to failure. No enterprise can afford to neglect operational efficiency, security threats or enterprise risk—but for the healthcare industry, the stakes are higher. Data breaches, enforcement measures and lawsuits waste resources, harm public trust and tarnish reputations or discontinuity of care for patients. Healthcare organizations should review their security postures beyond compliance, and if needed, not hesitate to seek the solutions needed in order to sustain operations and protect patient data. Understanding critical gaps and addressing those first would go a long way to securing the healthcare organization, which in turn, helps to ensure continuity of patient care.

About The Author

Manolito Jones is the Healthcare Solutions Team Leader at Lockpath, a leading provider of integrated risk management solutions.