Protecting patient data has been a hot topic in the past couple of months—particularly in light of the recent pandemic. Due to many hacking exploits, a lot of sensitive patient data has fallen into the wrong hands. Fortunately, healthcare experts around the world have persevered at great personal risk and have done what they could to serve their patients in every way possible (data security included).
In this article, we will discuss the three main challenges that the healthcare industry will likely face in the coming year. However, before jumping in, let’s have a quick rundown of what took place in 2020.
2020 in Review
One thing is safe to say: the healthcare industry has been under a lot of pressure in 2020. The pandemic has brought on plenty of unique challenges of its own; it has shut down businesses, separated loved ones via quarantine, and even taken lives. However, it hasn’t stopped there.
Hackers and other malicious parties have also taken the opportunity to exploit the pandemic for their benefit. Consequently, patient data security breaches have become a regular threat. As a matter of fact, in the first half of 2020 alone, there were over 40 successful ransomware attacks on healthcare providers.
Unfortunately, while these numbers are alarming, they are not new. Over 89% of healthcare providers have experienced a data breach in the past two years—even before the pandemic. That said, the large-scale challenge of COVID-19 has presented fertile ground for malicious cyber attacks in an already vulnerable industry.
Which Trends and Challenges Will Emerge in 2021?
Knowing the extent of 2020’s obstacles puts into perspective the responsibility of the future. Most of 2021 will be spent dealing with the consequences of the year before. That doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, though. We can learn from the unprecedented events that have taken place over the course of the past year and work towards a common goal of rebuilding and reshaping the healthcare industry. In that vein, here are the top three most important things to focus on in 2021.
1. Virtual and Remote Healthcare Options
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for virtual and remote healthcare is at its highest. Forrester predicts that virtual doctors’ visits will reach one billion by 2021. The main challenge here is to determine whether virtual healthcare is as effective as in-person.
Over 66% of physicians claim that virtual healthcare is much more accessible for patients. However, doctors cannot do all procedures remotely. Furthermore, another challenge emerges here: is our healthcare system modern enough to support the skyrocketing demand for virtual visits? Will there be any slip-ups in 2021? These are important questions to consider as we go forward with more remote healthcare options.
2. Public Demand for Reform
Many states have failed to prepare for extreme situations of this pandemic’s caliber. Responses differed, but the outbreak was very difficult to control across the board. This has resulted in a lack of trust in state and local leadership, as well as the healthcare system itself.
The shortage of supplies and protective equipment has also worried the citizens. Many wonder, if the state can’t protect its healthcare experts, how can it protect the people? If circumstances don’t improve, the public will put even more pressure on the healthcare industry by demanding substantial reform.
3. Cybersecurity Improvements
Numerous issues in health computing have proven that cybersecurity is a weak spot for healthcare. Patients’ privacy has been compromised on many levels, and a lot of data has been leaked on the internet.
It is expected that between 2020 and 2025, the healthcare industry will have spent over $160 million on cybersecurity. Since hackers have realized how lucrative this industry can be, it is safe to expect a further increase in cyberattacks.
The primary obstacle here is to mitigate these threats ahead of time; our healthcare system must ready itself to fight these threats independently and effectively if it hopes to better protect patient data in the coming years.
How to Protect Patient Data in 2021
If you currently own or operate a healthcare practice, the single most important step is to begin investing more in your cybersecurity. Lack of awareness of the need for bolstered security measures has proven to be devastating for the industry as a whole. However, this can be corrected with the following three steps.
Create a cybersecurity plan for your healthcare institution (it is generally helpful to hire risk assessment experts to locate any weak points). Then, devise a plan for implementing better cybersecurity measures. You will want to set aside a considerable budget, as cybersecurity isn’t cheap; but, ultimately, the goal is to develop a workable security strategy that will be properly suited for you and your practice as it moves forward.
Start by hiring managed IT security service providers. They will suggest and implement specific solutions that will improve your hospital’s individual cybersecurity infrastructure. Additionally, make sure to invest in education and training to teach employees about important cybersecurity best practices.
It has been proven that human error and lack of knowledge are among the top reasons for data breaches and ransomware attacks. However, investing reasonable time and resources into an improved cybersecurity infrastructure can make the difference in preventing these errors (and, as a result, successful cyberattacks).
Secure data management for patient care is not a one-time thing. Hackers improve their methods daily. To mitigate this ever-evolving threat landscape, you should never stop improving your cybersecurity. Optimize your systems, run frequent checks, perform penetration testing regularly, and stay informed on new threats to your practice. Preventative measures take work to put into place, but their benefits are much preferred to the consequences of being unprepared.
Ready to Move Forward?
Everyone hopes that the next year won’t be as challenging as the previous. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested everyone’s strength and patience, the healthcare industry bearing some of the worst of it. Learning from the unexpected trials we have faced is the common goal for all, and working together to strengthen the healthcare industry is a great place to start.
If you are ready to improve your practice’s cybersecurity infrastructure, Scale Technology is here to help. Protection is our priority, and our experts are ready to assist you with all of your patient data security needs. Give us a call at 501-222-8991, or contact us online for more information on how we help you protect your practice—and your patients—today.