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How outpatient clinics can minimize cyber security risks


Technology and training are keys to thwarting cyber attacks

In 2022, 25% of all ransomware attacks were aimed at the health care sector, and nearly 80% of health care breaches were attributed to hacking and IT incidents. Even worse, the health care industry has held the title for the costliest breach for 12 years in a row.

With larger health systems better equipped with more resources to help combat attacks, smaller outpatient facilities have a target on their back as an easier avenue for cyber criminals to access valuable patient data such as bank account and Social Security numbers, as well as intellectual property around medical research.

These often underfunded and understaffed facilities need to prioritize their cyber health now more than ever.

Leveraging technology to keep outpatient centers data secure

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are beneficial for improving health outcomes and processes—from drug discovery to analyzing patient data, they’re transforming the way that health care organizations operate.However, while AI can be a crucial component in protecting your organization, if not implemented properly, it could also be a hacker’s way into exploiting your system. Cybercriminals are no strangers to AI and how it is used in defenses for cybersecurity.

However, by combining ML and AI tools in the cloud, outpatient facilities can remove the “noise” from cyber attacks. These tools can also help with compliance by using vendor-centric ML/AI tools or building ML models to intelligently capture compliance issues.

Consider proactive technology defenses to work alongside ML/AI, such as MDR (managed detection and response). This technology can aid in quickly identifying threats, helping organizations respond without delay and thwarting major issues.

Increased training can bolster resilience to cyber attacks

While investments in technology play a large role in identifying attacks and helping protect against them, it is equally critical to invest in your teams by equipping them with the knowledge necessary to identify and prepare for attacks. A simple phishing email could be an entry for cyber criminals to gain access to the organization, and if employees do not know how to identify these subtle attacks, they could be putting the entire outpatient center and even a larger affiliated health care system at risk.

Additionally, connected health care has become so prevalent and electronic health records so widely used that if not managed properly, they can become easy targets for cyber criminals. In 2022 alone, health care organizations averaged nearly two breaches and over 500 patient records exposed each day. Educating workers on the proper ways to manage patient data through all technologies used helps to keep that data safe and secure.

While cybersecurity training is required for HIPAA compliance, this training typically takes place only with new hires. A one-time training session isn’t enough. The cybersecurity landscape is always changing, especially with the evolving regulatory compliance environment, so there need to be processes in place to continually update and educate employees to ensure they understand the employer’s cybersecurity policies.

Prioritize a cyber recovery plan

The most common consequence of cyberattacks in the health care industry is a delay in procedures and necessary patient tests. In a 2022 study, 57% of providers reported that cyberattacks had caused negative patient outcomes, and 50% noted increased complications to medical procedures.

Hackers are smart, and unfortunately, even with all the right precautions, remaining vigilant and prepared is a must.This unpredictability means cyber recovery planning must be a key part of your outpatient center’s incident response to minimize any impact on patients, procedures, or the organization’s ability to function.

While identification of a breach needs to occur quickly, recovery needs to be even faster. Ongoing testing of incident response plans is for preparedness, as finding those holes in your cyber defenses will prove its worth down the line.Having the demonstrated ability to quickly recover from a breach can also improve cyber insurance coverage and save money.

With multiple cyberattacks occurring daily in health care, outpatient centers need to have plans in place to make cybersecurity a top priority. The ability to better identify and respond to any form of security issue not only will help your staff feel more secure, but it will allow patients to feel that their data is safe.

Sanjeev Pant is field CTO of Presidio

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