In today’s healthcare environment, it’s extremely important to have reliable, secure IT service, with over 96% of all non-federal acute-care hospitals having some form of certification as of 2017. Due to the amazing amount of information they hold, electronic medical record (EMR) systems are vital to the tracking and analysis of a patient’s medical information, especially during emergency situations. This is because, during patient transfers, up to 80% of serious medical errors occur due to miscommunication, making EMRs helpful in preventing these mistakes.
Unfortunately, this volume of data also makes EMRs a prime target for hackers. For this reason, it’s of vital importance that your healthcare IT system be properly managed to prevent data breaches.
Healthcare IT: Challenge and Benefits in 2020 & Beyond
Why Healthcare IT is Vital to Patient Care
- EMR integration provides instant access to accurate patient information, testing and past care, helping improve patient care and system efficiency.
- Error reduction helps save lives and reduce risk with IT documentation of patient care, medications administered and equipment used.
- Secure, shareable data allows patient data to be shared across multiple locations and facilities, making it easier to coordinate care with multiple practitioners.
- HIPAA compliance is made much easier by making simple changes within the software rather than keeping up with changes across every handwritten chart.
- Team collaboration is much easier when EMR infrastructure is easy to share and review, providing better patient outcomes.
- Backups and disaster recovery is much easier when an experienced IT service is taking care of system maintenance.
- Check-in is much faster and more efficient using properly-configured EMR systems, improving the patient experience.
How Can IT Management of EMR Systems Improve?
There are three ways that you can improve your EMR system with superior IT management. To start, you can improve the exchange of information. One top challenge involves designing an interface that can work well across a range of different departments and meet their needs. The interface will need to work just as well for your doctors as it will for the lab as it will for the billing department.
The second is by providing easier access to EMR records by patients and out-of-system providers. If a patient is in a car accident on a trip and is unconscious, it’s important that the treating facility knows about their surgical screws from that skiing accident a few years ago as well as their medical allergies before beginning treatment. EMR records make this easier, allowing the treating physician to avoid using an MRI and medications that can cause serious reactions.
The third area of improvement is in security. There have been multiple breaches of EMR security over the years, as well as examples of ransomware and similar technology being deployed to cause serious problems for healthcare systems. This is quite possibly the most serious issue and one that we’ll take a look at in the next section.
Healthcare IT Breaches: 5 Examples of Cyberattacks
- A data breach results in patient records being held for ransom. Florida physician Dr. Richard Davis, MD, was contacted in the fall of 2019 after hackers had breached his patient data, as were several of his patients. The hackers demanded a ransom be paid or the EMR records would be used to exploit the patients or that the data would be sold to a third party, putting an estimated 3,500 patients at risk. The doctor added a range of different security features, including hard drives, firewalls, and numerous other security measures in the attempt to prevent another attack.
- Minnesota-based Alomere Health faced the compromise of almost 50,000 patients’ records when two of their employees’ email accounts were hacked. It was never discovered how much information the hackers had accessed, but the accounts that were exposed had contained the names, contact information, birth dates, and personal medical and health information on the patients. The company has updated its IT services since the attack has taken place, as well as adding training for employees on email attacks and similar phishing scams.
- New Mexico hospital Roosevelt General discovered that malware had infected the hospital’s radiology department. Though the hospital’s IT team discovered the attack and very promptly disconnected the impacted server to remove the malware and rebuild the server, the damage was already done. Only 500 patient files were on that specific server, but the information in the files included birth dates, Social Security numbers and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. This is more than enough information for identity theft to take place, even though the hospital began to run vulnerability scans on their servers.
- LifeLabs, a Canadian healthcare business, ended up having to pay cuber criminals in order to retrieve data that impacted 15 million patients – nearly 40% of the country’s population. At the time that the malware attack was discovered, the company contacted law enforcement as well as bringing in IT support to fix the security issues that had lead to the data breach.
- A Texas pediatric system that is part of the Pedi Health system was targeted by ransomware in October 2019. Chidren’s Choice Pediatrics had to immediately secure their network and contact all of their potentially impacted patients to alert them to the issue. The organization brought in outside IT services to improve their IT security and undertake an investigation of the attack.
Though cybercrime has always been an issue since the dawn of the networked computer age, the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn have seen a significant increase in these types of crime. That’s just one of the reasons why it’s more important than ever to work with a properly designed, configured and secured healthcare IT system. If you have concerns about the possibility of a cyberattack on your healthcare system’s digital assets, we can help you find the right solutions for your concerns. Why not contact us today with any questions, to get more information on our services or to schedule a consultation with our experienced staff?
Photos courtesy of gettyimages.com