The health care sector has been at the forefront of technological innovation and deployment in the past several years, driven by compliance requirements that demand increased use of electronic medical records and advanced patient care strategies. From telehealth and enterprise mobility to big data and cloud computing utilization, medical organizations have had a significant road to travel to optimize and modernize their IT frameworks.
For many reasons, cloud services have stood at the center of new deployments and innovation, especially considering the increased need for flexible and scalable computing platforms, infrastructure and software in light of these demanding trends. In many ways, the health care sector has succeeded - on the large scale - in progressively enacting new programs that drive the overall efficiency and effectiveness of patient care.
However, there are a few arguments against the ways in which medical organizations are handling their IT management responsibilities, specifically when it comes to compliance, security and privacy. After all, these firms are tasked with meeting the requirements of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, as well as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which work together to stimulate IT deployments in a safe and secure fashion.
Cloud services have been seen as an exceptional way of boosting security performances, specifically through the centralization of management and oversight, leading to enhanced accuracy and efficiency in these firms. Still, new reports argue that the average health care provider might not be taking all of the right steps to secure patient information and optimize IT environments, leaving themselves at risk of several adverse situations.
The security question
Healthcare IT News recently reported that hacker Kevin Johnson, who is a security consultant for a variety of medical organizations, has declared that this sector is among the worst performers in terms of data and system protection. In fact, he went so far as to call the sector the "Wild West," the news provider noted, and stated that too many of these firms are not learning about security breaches or vulnerabilities until receiving notification from a law enforcement officials.
This indicates that monitoring and threat detection have yet to reach a healthy level among medical organizations, at least on the large scale, leading to increased risk of breach and long-term exposure of patient records. According to the source, Johnson also pointed out that smaller firms in the health care industry might be at the center of this discussion, believing that they are not as threatened as their larger counterparts.
"They'll say to you, 'Who's going to attack me? I'm some small hospital … we don't have anything people care about; we don't have credit card numbers,'" Johnson told Healthcare IT News. "These perceptions can get organizations and, more importantly, consumers into a whole lot of trouble. Medical records for identity theft actually profits the bad guys more ... Here is a massive piece of data that as a bad guy, I would want to have access to."
Those companies that do not believe that they are at risk of a disaster or data breach, regardless of which industry they might be competing in, are often the most threatened and frequently targeted. The time is now to get moving on compliance and security programs for patient medical record systems, health care networks and other components within the IT realm.
Stand and deliver
The worst thing a health care provider can do is nothing at all, meaning that security in today's medical landscape takes diligence and proactive thinking. HealthITSecurity recently listed several recommendations for medical organizations to consider when working to avoid data breaches, protect patient information and still capture the power that comes with modern and novel IT solutions.
For one, the source stated that devices should be protected when BYOD and other programs are released, while decision-makers should be especially honed in on vendor selection for cloud computing services. If a service provider cannot clearly and reliably assure the health care firm of its ability to meet the demands of regulatory compliance and keep information protected, than it might not be the best choice.
According to the news provider, before even signing a contract with a cloud services firm, medical organizations will need to take a second look at their own practices and procedures, categorize data with respect to sensitivity and several other critical internal procedures.
Because of how quickly demand has increased for cloud services, the market has become relatively saturated and overwhelmed by new entrants. However, health care providers can certainly find the right vendors of these solutions, such as one that will cover all compliance-related concerns and maintain security assurance throughout the life cycle of the corporate contract, as long as decision-makers are diligently and intelligently researching their options in this arena.