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How To Enhance Your Online Security When Storing Medical Records In The Cloud

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Cloud computing has not only made real-time collaboration for individuals and businesses an everyday reality, it has also made it easier for healthcare providers to share information about patients.

In our last post, we talked about the Importance of Online Security When Storing Medical Records On The Cloud, and discussed how hackers are constantly finding ways to breach secure systems. However, while having readily accessible medical information systems come with risks, these risks can be significantly reduced if your business is proactive and informed. If you use a comprehensive data security management system and work with trusted cloud providers, it’s possible to safeguard your patients’ information to the highest of standards, without compromising on efficiency.

Today we will be briefly discussing the benefits and risks associated with storing files in the Cloud, and explore the different ways health care providers can protect their patients information.

Storing medical records in the Cloud: risks versus benefits

Benefits

Storing medical records in the Cloud allows medical professionals to track data over time, easily identify patients who are due for checkups, monitor patient’s test results, and improve their overall quality and accuracy of care. Cloud-based medical records also allow for multiple healthcare providers to share patient data easily and in real-time, therefore allowing for streamlined operations and accessibility for all parties, including patients.

Research has shown that cloud-based systems have led to improvements in technology capacity, financial metrics, time management, productivity, and even reduced security risks. Data loss was reported to be at just 5%, and only 2% of respondents said they had experienced data breaches.

Risks

The risks of storing medical records and other private information in the Cloud have been well documented. Medical information is protected by law as well as medical ethics guidelines. Technical errors, medical identity theft, and other data exposure errors can place confidential patient information at risk. Even encrypted medical information systems have vulnerabilities, and skilled hackers can still gain access to these infrastructures.

The importance of online security for cloud-stored medical records

As has been noted, cloud-based systems can offer more stringent security guarantees than self-hosted systems maintained by a healthcare provider, especially if the healthcare provider’s server lacks strict security processes and qualified maintenance staff. In addition, specialised Cloud providers are better able to focus their resources on data security in comparison to a healthcare provider, whose core business activity is servicing its patients.

There are a range of security measures that both healthcare providers and their cloud-service partners can set up to secure patient’s’ confidential data, while still taking advantage of the incredible benefits of cloud-based medical records. Patient data security is the responsibility of both the healthcare and the cloud-service provider.

Invest in training

Every healthcare clinic should invest in cyber defense and personal security training, as this ensures staff members are adequately trained in how to use technology effectively, along with other other vital aspects of data security such as physical security.

Tools for protecting the local network

As patient data will pass from the local network to the Cloud, healthcare providers need to make sure their local network is as well defended as possible. This includes using firewalls, security software, and enforcing password-protected and privilege-based access to the network, so only authorised users can gain access.

Physical security

Healthcare providers need to make sure that any portable devices – including USB keys, notebook computers, and tablets – that are used to store patient and other health related information are encrypted. Access to these devices and their data should be monitored or restricted, as is appropriate. Healthcare providers should develop a clear mobile device policy to guide staff members, and where appropriate use mobile device management software to enforce the policy.

Additionally, many healthcare providers still use paper for some of their records; access to these physical files should be strictly controlled and records kept locked away when not being used. Any other physical endpoints where data access is possible should be locked down and accounted for.

Wireless networks

Wireless networks are a common security vulnerability, so make sure your software, hardware, and other components are kept up-to-date and secured with passwords that are frequently updated. Connection to the network should be managed with a permission-based system, and conduct regular monitoring to ensure there are no unauthorised connections occuring.

Unused data

Legacy, unusable, and unnecessary patient information should be securely deleted. If your healthcare practice regularly deals with a significant amount of obsolete data, provide staff members with specific guidelines for disposing of that data. Seek advice from IT professionals or your in-house tech staff on how to delete this data securely so it cannot be recovered.

Medical devices

Ensure that electronic medical devices receive software patches as soon as they are available. Just as with computers and networks, out-of-date software can expose medical devices to vulnerabilities.

Review and vet cloud-based services

Regardless of which cloud-based service provider your practice works with, have a qualified third-party vet the security of these services, and do so on a regular basis.

Data breach plan

It is always better to be prepared in case of a data breach, even if it never happens to your healthcare practice. If you have a data breach plan prepared, you can mobilise your team quickly and respond to any breaches readily, preventing further data loss.