In September of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the computer systems of a major U.S. hospital chain, Universal Health Services, representing over 400 locations, came under a ransomware attack. Over the course of a weekend, all computers went down and staff was rendered digitally powerless and forced to function manually via pen and paper, including updating patient information and handwritten prescriptions. This example, among many others, serves as a reminder that no one organization or person is safe from a potential cyber-attack. Oftentimes the best defense is being well-prepared for the inevitable.
Statistics compiled by Techjury reveal that in the last decade, there have been over 2,550 data breaches in the U.S. healthcare industry, with millions of records being affected. If this is not enough to heighten the level of concern of several healthcare companies, the next statistic will. By the end of 2020, security breaches are expected to cost the healthcare industry 6 trillion dollars. This is a significant increase from the $3 trillion figure projected in 2017.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to move dangerously through countries across the world. Its effects can be felt by businesses, large and small, that have had to shut their doors for an extended period of time in hopes of slowing its spread.
Throughout this time, hospitals have been our most essential resource in terms of battling the pandemic and caring for patients. Walk-in clinics and other healthcare facilities that are not hospitals have had to shut their doors, opting to care for patients through telehealth systems instead. Though we will not know the extent of mass telehealth use and adoption until after economies open, and the virus is behind us, we can draw safe conclusions to the fact that they have been well widely-used by patients thus far.
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many healthcare providers were sent "scrambling" to transition their clinics from in-person to telehealth operations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) moved quickly to ease regulations for healthcare providers, ridding them of some of the stress associated with meeting certain HIPAA compliance criteria.
One of HIPAA's most crucial administrative safeguards is the implementation of "policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain, and correct security violations." This particular safeguard requires a great focus on risk analysis and management, reducing risk, as well as implementing the necessary measures to keep vulnerabilities at a reasonable level.
Though aimed at being a convenient alternative, telehealth practices must do their best to replicate in-person visits. With that being said, all data being shared between patient and provider is done virtually, meaning that extra precautions should be taken to protect sensitive personal health information (PHI).
For organizations of all sizes, physical equipment can present several challenges. From space constraints to the additional overhead of repairing and maintaining equipment, the liability this technology presents is no longer worth the additional strain it places on IT leaders and their budgets.
As data breaches become more frequent and complex, healthcare organizations are encouraged to become familiar with HIPAA's Breach Notification Rule.
What is the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule?
According to Health IT Security, the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires HIPAA covered entities to provide notification to individuals, regulators, and the media following a breach of protected health information (PHI).
Healthcare's shift into a digitized industry with telehealth is also becoming a shift into a better customer experience. Historically, patients may receive accurate and excellent healthcare, but at the expense of a high quality customer experience.
However, with the increasingly competitive telehealth market that can now reach further than just the vicinity of a local clinic, doctors must start heavily factoring in customer experience with their telehealth services. There are multiple ways to achieve this, from employing UX/UI designers who enhance hospital and clinic sites or apps to even rebrand your organization's infrastructure in a customer-centric method.