Protecting Data in a Digital Health Environment June 21th, 2022

Protecting Data in a Digital Health Environment

Your clients need your security expertise in an increasingly connected healthcare industry.

Healthcare is becoming more digital. Patient data is accessible through network connections, enabling care teams to share information, allowing patients and physicians to connect virtually, and meeting patients’ transparency demands. Digital health solutions, from telehealth that expanded during the pandemic to electronic health records (EHR) that enable practitioners to share data, have enhanced care delivery. However, the growth and expansion of digital health and access to patient information have created a much greater risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

According to the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity ENISA 2020 Data Breach Threat Landscape Report, the total number of breaches increased 54 percent by mid-2019 compared to 2018. The report further states that 71 percent of the data breaches were financially motivated, 52 percent of data breaches involved hacking and 70 percent of breaches exposed personal details from emails such as date of birth. The report also pinpoints causes, including phishing attacks that deliver malware and ransomware that locks applications or systems and include attackers downloading data. Additionally, more than half of European citizens are concerned about their data being accessed by criminals and fraudsters. 

Steps for Securing Digital Health Data  

Healthcare solutions providers face the challenge of finding the balance between protecting digital health data while enabling the data sharing and functionality healthcare organizations need. Build these elements into the solutions you provide to overcome that challenge:  

      • Access Control 22_Honeywell-Healthcare-Q2C1-eBook_Mockup-(EN)

It’s essential to control who has access to digital health data by equipping your clients with solutions that enable them to issue login credentials and validate users with multifactor authentication (MFA). Additionally, solutions that allow role-based controls will give healthcare organizations stronger control over who can access data. You should also empower your healthcare clients to block or limit particular actions with PHI, such as downloads, copying data to external files, sharing it in emails, or printing it. Only people who need specific types of data should be able to see or use it – so if a hacker manages to access a system with their credentials, they’d be limited in what they could do. Furthermore, people with administrator access should be strictly limited.  

  • Monitor Use 

Your healthcare clients need a system that allows them to monitor activity within their systems that use PHI. For example, give them the ability to track who logs in, how frequently they log in, and the data and applications they use. This information is vital for auditing, but it can also flag unusual behaviors that show credentials may have been stolen or hacked, providing an early indication of a cyberattack or data breach.  

  • Encryption 

It’s wise to encrypt files containing PHI in transit or storage. Encrypted data is useless to hackers looking to monetize data unless they have a decryption key to make it readable. Provide your clients with an encryption solution to provide an added layer of security.  

  • Secure Mobile Devices 

The best strategy for your healthcare clients is to issue corporate-owned devices rather than allowing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment. By issuing devices, they can standardize solutions and manage them centrally, maintaining the ability to provision and control them or lock or wipe them if they’re lost or stolen. It also gives your clients the ability to choose hardened devices that enable biometric user authentication, making them inherently more secure.  

  • Secure IoT Devices 

Internet of Things (IoT) devices provide vital data for patient monitoring, medical equipment status and more. However, they could also create security vulnerabilities. Leverage your technology expertise to vet devices for their level of security and deploy solutions that continuously monitor them for changes in activity. Also, remind your clients to disable IoT devices when not in use.  

  • Back Up Data 

Don’t overlook the importance of building a comprehensive backup and data recovery (BDR) strategy. Healthcare organizations need to create and store recoverable backups on different media types in different locations, with at least one airlocked or offline, so that data is always accessible, even if the organization is attacked by ransomware or its facility is damaged by a disaster.  

One Additional, Essential Way to Protect Digital Health Data  

Your healthcare clients can also benefit from your expertise in another area: training employees on digital health data protection. Assist your clients as they educate staff and help them understand why security solutions are in place -- to protect the data and the user -- and why proper use is important. 

Even after deploying a comprehensive suite of security solutions, people are often the weak link, representing a significant vulnerability to cyberattacks and data breaches. Effective training combined with security technology and strong policies will help to strengthen digital health data security and enable patients and healthcare practitioners to see the value of innovations without the risks.