Healthcare Security in the New America

Changes to the healthcare industry could mean increased risks for providers and associated companies

America’s healthcare industry is changing faster than ever and healthcare organizations need to adapt to operate securely. In particular, pending and recent changes to healthcare laws and concerns about healthcare information privacy have many feeling uncertain about the industry’s direction.

For healthcare providers and related firms, these changes aren’t just theoretical; they affect patients, caregivers, and facilities on a day-to-day basis. Reductions in insurance care for afflicted populations, for example, may well increase the frequency of hospital and clinic thefts caused by uninsured or underinsured individuals seeking medication. In other situations, issues related to healthcare data privacy could lead to a criminal (or a disgruntled employee) attempting to steal data off computer systems.

How legislative changes may have a practical security impact

Much of the uncertainty about the future of American healthcare can be attributed to the changes in Washington, D.C. While a number of politicians have stated the intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act, recent legislative attempts have stalled in Congress. However, new legislation – in whatever form it takes – is on the horizon, and could usher in big changes for the healthcare industry.

For example, changes in healthcare laws could lead to fewer Americans with health insurance coverage. In practical terms, fewer insured individuals historically results in a higher number of patients who seek medical treatment through emergency room visits – and that means new risks for hospitals.

More ER visits could result in overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms, as well as increased threats of violence from highly-stressed individuals and mentally ill-patients. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, ERs tend to be at risk from violence. A recent study suggests that “More than 75 percent of emergency physicians experienced at least one violent workplace incident in a year.”

There is also the threat of workplace violence, such as the tragic rampage by a fired doctor who killed one former colleague and injured six others at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in July.

Healthcare information security breaches are a paramount concern

Cybercrime and other information security problems remain a serious threat to health care organizations and the companies that handle their data. Confidential medical data is now transferred through mobile apps, online platforms, and cloud-computing used for health record storage and analysis. Organizations risk lawsuits, government fines, reputational damage, and, in some cases, criminal charges if they experience a major breach.

Complying with HIPAA regulations remains a challenge and priority for many healthcare providers and associated businesses. Information breaches often cause unintentional HIPAA violations – which is part of the reason healthcare data breaches are more expensive than those in any other industry.

An effective security strategy begins with physical security

Improving the physical security of your healthcare facility not only mitigates the threat of violence and theft, it is often a vital step in improving information security. While it’s true that hackers and cybercriminals can operate from anywhere in the world, many information security breaches begin as physical ones.

For example, a criminal could easily sneak into an unsecured hospital or medical facility. Once inside, they may attempt to steal files by placing a USB drive preloaded with malicious software into an unattended computer terminal. To counter these kinds of ‘hybrid’ data threats, as well as traditional security risks, smart healthcare organizations are incorporating a variety of site-specific strategies, including:

  • ID Badge Management & Access Control: Knowing who’s in your facility is essential if you want to keep your patients, employees, and information safe. An ID-badge management system can create unique (and nearly impossible-to-forge) temporary and permanent IDs for employees and visitors, while preventing unauthorized individuals from entering the facility.
  • Access Control & Video Surveillance: In addition to turnstiles, restricted areas, and other access control measures, comprehensive surveillance monitoring systems are essential.
  • Advanced Video Analytics: While it’s important to have security personnel watching surveillance feeds, even the best of them can’t catch everything. With intelligent video monitoring software, an intuitive program uses pattern recognition algorithms to detect potential threats, such as loud noises, abrupt movements, and individuals displaying suspicious body-language.

Healthcare organizations must prioritize security

In addition to physically securing facilities, safeguarding data has never been more important in the healthcare industry. Smart organizations understand that while new tech can bring incredible improvements in efficiency and patient outcomes, it can also pose a serious risk. Careful steps must be taken to make sure that the organization is both physically and digitally secured.

To prevent violence or theft, adequate access control and surveillance measures should be added to secure a facility. These may include the use of managed remote monitoring services for surveillance feeds, electronic access control, and software that proactively identifies threats.

To learn more about how to protect your healthcare organization, contact POM Technologies today at 212.688.2767 or through our online form for a free consultation.