Why Secure IT Systems Are So Important In Healthcare

Healthcare
Healthcare

IT security has been a hot topic in recent years. Cyber breaches affecting corporate giants such as Capital One have kept it at the forefront of people’s minds. While it occurs more commonly in traditional commercial entities, healthcare providers are not exempt as was the case with a cyberattack on the NHS (the UK’s system of public healthcare providers) in 2017. 

As a result of the major cyber threats that exist in addition to other important factors, healthcare companies invest heavily in secure IT systems. The following article explains why this is so.

The Healthcare Industry Is More Reliant Than Ever On IT System

Historically, the healthcare industry stored masses of paperwork and physical records. However, as healthcare processes increasingly become digitised, there has been a greater reliance on IT systems. Nowadays physical assessments and test results can be accessed swiftly by doctors and nurses who can then pass them on to the patient. Therefore, it is essential that hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, and all other healthcare providers have strong, secure systems to send, receive and store a wide range of sensitive information. 

Healthcare Efficiency Depends On It

An ever-growing population makes effective, timely healthcare more of a challenge to manage than ever before. Just as the industry relies on IT systems to handle its administrative functions, the healthcare of patients depends very much on this process running smoothly. Whereas in the past, individual records were kept at the treatment location, this data is now held centrally.

As such, when a patient requires emergency treatment at any hospital, their entire medical history – from GP visits to mental health centre check-ins – will be accessible to hospital staff. This enables healthcare professionals to quickly and safely make informed decisions regarding the care of their patients. That being so, ensuring IT systems that contain this data are secure and accessible is a crucial part of maintaining a sustainable health care service.

Patient Data Requires Robust Protection

Vast amounts of sensitive personal data is stored within the IT systems of the healthcare industry. As such any type of data breach could have catastrophic consequences all around. Firstly, there is the issue of fraud – including identity fraud, insurance fraud, and financial fraud – should such detailed information fall into the wrong hands. Secondly, healthcare providers put themselves at risk of substantial lawsuits as a result of transgressions that compromise personal data. For these reasons, it is extremely important to continuously maintain impenetrable IT systems. 

Breaches Are Met With Significant Financial Penalties

Inadequate data protection will inevitably result in enormous financial penalties for healthcare companies. In the US, a health insurance provider named Anthem suffered a cyber-breach in 2015 that led to extensive data being accessed illegally. This included names, dates of birth, medical IDs, and social security numbers. A staggering 79 million people were affected by the breach. Not only did the company have to pay out $115 million for a class-action lawsuit settlement, but they were also fined an additional $16 million by the US Department of Health and Human Services due to violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Effective And Secure IT Systems Save Money 

Secure IT systems save the healthcare industry money by significantly reducing the amount of time and work required. Efficient IT processes save countless hours spent filling in repetitive paperwork. This not only lessens the amount of time spent on administrative duties but can also reduce the number of staff required for certain manual tasks as well. Moreover, money that was previously tied up in the storage of physical records can be made available for extra medical space, which increases efficiency even further.

Maintaining Secure IT Systems In The Healthcare Sector Is A No-brainer

As can be seen, investment in quality IT systems with robust security is non-negotiable for healthcare providers. Not only for ethical reasons pertaining to the duty of care owed to their patients, but also for financial and legal reasons. In the worst cases, weak IT systems will ultimately prove to be fatal. A company that’s on the receiving end of the substantial fines handed out for cyber breaches may find itself in a deep financial hole that it can never quite recover from.