Why Data Security Matters in Healthcare (Plus Tips to Protect Sensitive Patient Data!)

In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare industry, safeguarding data has become a top priority for independent medical practices. As custodians of sensitive patient information, healthcare organizations must implement robust measures to safeguard against potential breaches and protect the confidentiality and integrity of patient data. At Benchmark Solutions, we understand that your patients’ privacy is sacred. Today, we’ll explain why we value data security and provide tips for better safeguarding patient information.


The Importance of Data Security in Healthcare

As EHRs transitioned from an emerging technology years ago to a commonplace tool in the present, patients and providers alike started wondering — are digital medical records truly secure? Fortunately, as technology continues to advance, so have security measures. It’s up to you to do everything you can to understand and prevent data breaches for the good of your business and the patients you care for.

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How Healthcare Data Breaches Happen

Images of shadowy figures frantically typing code may come to mind when you think about a data breach. But hacking isn’t the only way healthcare data is compromised. Physicians must know the risks of storing and managing patient data digitally. When you and your staff understand data breaches, you can put measures in place to reduce the likelihood of one happening at your practice. Here are some of the most common ways healthcare data can be tampered with:


Involve an individual or group of individuals who deliberately exploit vulnerabilities in software or networks to gain unauthorized access to sensitive patient information.

Phishing Attacks

Crafted by scammers to deceive individuals into providing login credentials or clicking on malicious links. These tend to happen more on the patient side but can occur if employees aren’t mindful of what they click when using company devices or accounts.

Inadequate Security Measures

Such as weak passwords or outdated software, can create entry points for cybercriminals.

Loss of Data

Stems from damage to physical hardware or cloud storage malfunctions. Sometimes, lost data can’t ever be recovered.

Physical Theft or Loss of Devices

Devices that contain patient data, including mobile devices, laptops, or hard drives, can also lead to data breaches.

How Data Breaches Could Impact Your Practice

If your practice experiences a data breach, you may face substantial financial strain for years to come. Between regulatory fines and lawsuits, you could be looking at thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in payouts. Beyond the immediate consequences, current and prospective patients may be deterred from seeking care at your practice.


The Impact of Data Breaches on Patients

The repercussions of healthcare data breaches extend far beyond the compromised security of your medical practice. Patients entrust providers with sensitive information about their health and finances, and a breach can profoundly affect their well-being. Eroded patient trust can negatively impact the doctor-patient relationship, hindering open communication and collaboration in managing health conditions. In some cases, patients may experience anxiety and stress, knowing that their private health information is no longer secure. Aside from severe emotional distress, patients can also experience tangible repercussions like identity theft, financial fraud, and interference with receiving treatment or medications.

Tips for Safeguarding Patient Data

Implement Robust Access Controls

One of the fundamental steps in ensuring data security is to implement stringent access controls. Limit access to patient information only to authorized personnel. Utilize role-based access control (RBAC) systems to assign specific permissions based on job responsibilities. Regularly review and update access privileges to reflect staff roles and responsibilities changes.

Encrypt Patient Data

Encryption is a powerful tool for protecting patient data from unauthorized access. Ensure all stored and transmitted patient information is encrypted at rest and in transit. Encryption adds an extra layer of security, making it challenging for hackers to decipher sensitive information even if they gain access to the system.

Regularly Update and Patch Systems

Cybersecurity threats constantly evolve, and hackers can exploit software vulnerabilities. Keep all software, including EHRs and security software, updated with the latest patches and updates. Regularly monitor for security updates and apply them promptly to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.

Conduct Regular Security Audits

Regular security audits are essential to identify and address potential weaknesses in your data security infrastructure. Conduct thorough assessments of your systems, networks, and procedures to identify vulnerabilities. Engage with cybersecurity experts to perform penetration testing and ensure your defenses are resilient against potential threats.

Train Staff on Security Best Practices

Human error often plays a role in data breaches. Train all staff members on security best practices, including the importance of strong password management, recognizing phishing attempts, and following secure communication protocols. Establish a culture of cybersecurity awareness to empower your team to be proactive in safeguarding patient data.

Backup Data Regularly

If a security incident happens, having regularly updated backups of patient data is crucial for quick recovery. Implement a robust backup and recovery plan to ensure your practice can restore essential patient information without significant disruption to operations, even in the worst-case scenario.

Secure Physical Access

When you think about data security, the digital environment is often front of mind — but physical security is equally important. Ensure that servers, computers, and other patient data hardware are stored in secure locations with restricted access. Implement surveillance cameras and access control systems to prevent unauthorized physical access.

Educate Patients

You can do everything right within the four walls of your practice and the networks you manage, but your patients still face security risks. If you print physical medical records, explain to patients how to properly store and dispose of them. If you offer a patient portal, it can be helpful to walk them through best practices for creating a secure password, where to log in, and other data protection tips.

Benchmark Solutions Offers Secure Technology for Independent Medical Practices

As independent medical practitioners navigate the challenges of providing high-quality patient care in a digital age, prioritizing data security in healthcare is non-negotiable. Here at Benchmark Solutions, we take data security seriously. Our EHR, PM, and RCM software are each compliant and routinely patched so you can rest assured knowing your practice’s information is safe.

Benchmark Solutions Data Security at a Glance
Applications and data are hosted at Rackspace®, a SSAE SOC compliant and audited hosting provider.
We use and regularly maintain firewalls and malware to protect data.
All operating systems are frequently updated and backed up.
Our ProTech team can build you a custom infrastructure, mixing cloud-based and physical hardware both on and off-site!

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