Like other businesses, healthcare organizations are responsible for protecting valuable data on the internet. Characteristically, healthcare providers collect, process, and store protected health information (PHI). If compromised, that data can bring huge returns in the black market. In effect, every healthcare organization, regardless of size, is particularly attractive to cybercriminals. A recent Cost of a Data Breach Report by Ponemon Institute found that the cost of a data breach in the healthcare sector is among the highest of any industry, averaging $429 per medical record.
Other than being increasingly attractive to hackers, healthcare is one of the most highly regulated industries because of the sensitivity of the data collected. Therefore, the sector requires high levels of privacy and security to meet stringent and dynamic compliance requirements. Fortunately, identity and access management (IAM) solutions can make all the difference in achieving reliable security levels and complying with relevant regulations.
Increasing Incidents in Healthcare Organizations
Canada’s health system is currently under siege from unrelenting cybercriminals attempting to access patient information and other data. Even worse, healthcare professionals and cybersecurity experts say clinics and hospitals cannot cope with the growing threats. David Burke, CBC News, posted that the “problem has become so big that some are calling for Ottawa to impose national security standards on the healthcare sector and for an influx of cash from the federal government to deal with the issue.”
For the moment, there is a growing list of healthcare institutions falling victims to sophisticated and complex breaches. For example, hackers hit LifeLabs, a Canadian diagnostic and specialty testing company, possibly exposing the sensitive information of millions of customers. In another incident, ransomware hit three Ontario hospitals, crippling their computer systems and prompting concern about the type of malicious software used and risk exposure to facilities.
IAM – The Foundation of Security Efforts
Naturally, healthcare organizations have different and diverse users, absolutely focused on providing healthcare delivery. An article on Healthcare Innovation states that the healthcare sector has “more entities to consider than most other industries.” It proceeds to reveal that the clinical staff is composed of many different types of users, each with varying roles and access requirements that vary by environment, role, location, and institution.
Additionally, the institutions operate persistent and highly valued on-premise, cloud, and hybrid applications, with a diverse set of edge devices and ever-more connected medical services and medical internet of things (MIoT) devices. What’s more, an increasingly decentralized workforce is eroding the once well-defined network perimeter. Overall, hospitals and health systems operate in a digital and hyper-complex life-critical world, requiring stringent security measures to ensure secure and convenient service delivery.
With the rise in sophisticated cyberattacks targeting the healthcare sector, identity and access management (IAM) provides a practical and reliable foundation for an organization’s security efforts. IAM is an integrated solution made up of people, processes and technology designed to help manage the complex challenges of controlling and monitoring user activity within applications they access and the network they travel within. Typically, IAM systems prevent the wrong people from accessing PHI and the authorized users from leaking sensitive information inadvertently or deliberately. Supporting user access to confidential personal and business information while protecting that confidential information from unauthorized users is a prime result of migrating to IAM.
Apart from enhancing the security posture in a healthcare organization, a suitable IAM solution potentially reduces costs, minimizes help desks calls, and improves user experience. What’s more, IAM provides these capabilities for applications, services, and PHI in the cloud, on-premise, or hybrid environment.
IAM Benefits for Healthcare Organizations
1. Protect PHI
The most significant IAM benefit is the ability to protect patient’s data and sensitive healthcare information. Unquestionably, healthcare leaders are tasked with protecting large amounts of PHI, requiring necessary measures and tools to prevent unauthorized access. Implementing IAM systems allows organizations to optimize and automate PHI protection.
IAM solutions provide a full suite of tools like single sign-on (SSO) features that enable healthcare organizations to access cloud and third-party applications and data securely. SSO platforms protect access behind a single login and rely on passing security tokens instead of vulnerable traditional passwords to verify a user’s identity before granting access to IT resources. Apart from SSO capabilities, IAM provides multifactor authentication (MFA) that adds a security step, such as requiring PIN codes, physical passkeys, or a one-time password as a second authentication mechanism. That way, even if hackers steal a user password, they cannot pass MFA protocols without the correct second verification factor.
2. Reduced IT Costs
IAM solutions provide capabilities necessary for organizational efficiencies, and IT cost reduction. IAM systems enable healthcare providers to automatically manage employee and user access rights for applications and PHI as they change roles throughout the organization. Additionally, IAM solutions offer self-service functionalities that allow users to request access to resources and get approval with minimum human intervention. Indeed, self-service functionality allows automated processes for managing user accounts, effectively unburdening system administrators from time-consuming tasks.
3. Increased Productivity
An IAM system eliminates manual account and permission errors. IAM programs provide fully automated management solutions that streamline operations and reduce IT costs. As a result, IT departments stop managing access rights to PHI and systems manually, effectively eliminating employee mistakes that cause data breaches and expensive fines.
Healthcare Innovation Group states that “automation can offer performance improvements.” For instance, the right IAM technology allows healthcare organizations to automate the process of identity proofing, provisioning access, and seeding access with the correct credentials. Besides, organizations can quickly suspend or terminate this access.
Additionally, using IAM components like MFA and SSO means that users can access third-party resources anywhere, anytime, and on any device. This capability is tremendously helpful to healthcare workers such as medical practitioners who often travel in their line of work. Instead of facing numerous VPN challenges and shortcomings of other logging systems, healthcare professionals can log into electronic healthcare systems once to access the required information.
4. Complying with Stringent Regulations
Healthcare Innovation Group states that clinical workflows are complicated by the healthcare industry’s complex operational and regulatory ecosystem. “Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry, and the information that’s shared is highly sensitive,” reads a Healthcare Innovation’s post. “This requires compliance with unique and specific regulatory compliance requirements, from HIPAA to DEA requirements for electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS).”
Investing in modern IAM solutions makes it much easier for healthcare organizations to stay compliant with different regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, and Privacy Act (Canada). Additionally, automating the identity management process reduces time-consuming tasks and eliminates potential human errors that impede compliance efforts.
Partnering with Stratejm to Improve Security and Meet Compliance
Canadian healthcare organizations can partner with Stratejm, a leader and innovator in the field of cybersecurity, to establish relationships of confidence and trust across a complex network of people, technology, and information. Stratejm is very aware of the hostile environment where healthcare service providers are constantly under threat from external and insider threats. With our in-depth expertise and state-of-the-art technology and process, hospitals and other caregivers can develop and maintain a trusted digital identity system to optimize their processes and technologies to solve critical workflow, compliance, and security challenges.
Contact Stratejm today for a demo.