The cybercriminals are out there, and healthcare practices are foremost in their sights. A mid-year article in Forbes spotlighted some striking cybersecurity statistics. 93% of company networks are vulnerable to cybercriminals while only half of U.S. businesses have a cybersecurity plan. Healthcare practices are the top victims for cybercriminals for two reasons.
First, they’re often lucrative targets based solely on their business models. Second, they possess protected health information (PHI), a data-rich snapshot consisting of patients’ financial and medical details. Let’s examine the dire consequences that can result from a cybersecurity incident in your practice.
Cyber Breaches: Their Costs and Consequences
Further statistics reveal that the healthcare sector is losing more to data breaches on average than any other with $10.1 million per incident in 2022. Those are the kind of numbers that can close a practice for good. How does this huge loss manifest in real terms?
- HIPAA Violations
Practices taking all possible cybersecurity precautions have some recourse to defend themselves if records are breached. Those who don’t will pay twice over for non-adherence to HIPAA data protection regulations and possibly ignoring post-cyber incident protocol. This could mean steep fines or jail time under HIPAA’s multi-tiered penalty structure.
- Reputational Damage
Practices that survive a cybersecurity incident’s internal losses and regulatory fees may wither in the court of public opinion. Breached clinics can suffer significant, sometimes business-ending, blows to community relationships.
In the worst cases, breached practices make headlines and become bywords for digital disaster, yet things needn’t be so public to cause reputational harm. Patients compromised by a breach may spread the word of how they suffered by association with a particular chiropractor.
- Legal Action
One or more individuals may choose to sue, further increasing negative exposure and compounding financial loss. The healthcare sector is hit hardest by patient lawsuits, not just by cybercriminals. Data privacy attorneys exist to assist patients with grounds for action, and the government’s Office of Civil Rights investigates any cybersecurity incident that impacts more than 500 people.
The threat is extensive, and the consequences are potentially devastating. This doesn’t mean practices are helpless. Here’s how to construct stronger cyber defenses.
Position Chiropractic Data in the Cloud
The cloud provides a buffer against physical hardware and paper records being compromised or damaged. Plus, cloud security is automatically updated. Practices, therefore, continually benefit from the latest in online cyber protection, earning the platform its “future proof” reputation.
This benefit doesn’t apply to onsite storage because a practice’s devices (both in-house and remote) must be manually updated with new patches and versions. Unfortunately, users don’t always take the time to do that. The Washington Post highlighted the high cost of not applying software updates despite tech experts considering them as possibly the best way to prevent cyberattacks.
Unite Staff and Patients as a Cybersecurity Team
A practice’s role in cybersecurity is critical. Staff members must be trained in prevention and response. Onsite electronic storage must have strong passwords, anti-malware and anti-virus software, and a firewall. Multi-step authentication should be implemented to access all patient files, and all five of these precautions should be present on every device with onsite or remote access to your practice.
Educate your patients on the risks of cybercrime and encourage them to adopt home cybersecurity measures and best practices. These include never opening links they don’t trust, contacting your practice for confirmation even if communications appear legitimate, and recommending that they regularly check their finances and medical details for any sign of unusual activity.
Go the Extra Mile and Protect Your Practice with CHUSAdefense
Dr. Ray Foxworth, DC, FICC, is founder and CEO of ChiroHealthUSA. For over 35 years, he worked “in the trenches” facing challenges with billing, coding, documentation, and compliance, in his practice. He is a former Medical Compliance Specialist and currently serves as chairman of The Chiropractic Summit, an at-large board member of the Chiropractic Future Strategic Plan Committee, a board member of the Cleveland College Foundation, and an executive board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is a former Staff Chiropractor at the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center and past chairman of the Mississippi Department of Health.