Mobile security essential for protecting healthcare records

Jul 10th, 2013 / Category: Managed File Transfer

While data security is critical for organizations in every industry, it is particularly essential for the healthcare sector. Hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics and other care providers have access to, and must collect, a wide range of incredibly sensitive data concerning their patients. This information, including medical histories and financial records, is necessary for doctors and nurses to effectively provide treatment. Unfortunately, however, this information is also becoming increasingly appealing to hackers and other cybercriminals, as it can be used to commit identity theft, fraud and other profitable, illicit crimes.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other legislation have established harsh penalties for those healthcare providers that fail to adequately protect patient information, including significant fines and other sanctions.

To avoid the financial and reputational damage that will almost certainly result from a data breach, it is imperative that healthcare providers pursue and implement robust data security solutions. Critically, these efforts must include mobile data protection tools, such as secure file sharing solutions. 

Mobile risks
Mobile security is particularly important for the healthcare industry thanks largely to two factors: electronic health records (EHRs) and the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

EHRs are an incredibly valuable resource for healthcare providers as they greatly improve access to medical information. Rather than faxing or physically sending medical records to and from hospitals, personnel can instantly gain access to relevant patient information, allowing for more precise treatments.

These benefits are increased thanks to BYOD policies, as doctors and other healthcare workers can now look up EHRs while on the go. This is especially useful considering how much healthcare professionals tend to move around throughout the day.

Yet for all of the benefits provided by EHRs and BYOD, these two trends combine to create an environment that is extremely at risk of data breaches, as Health IT Security recently highlighted. The news source noted that when doctors use their personal smartphones, tablets and other devices to access EHRs, more endpoints are created, each of which may pose a security threat. Furthermore, because these devices are owned by the employees themselves, rather than the healthcare organization, it is impossible for the organization to take direct control of this hardware.

Mobile solutions
Fortunately, solutions exist that can allow hospitals to leverage BYOD and EHR resources without putting their patients' data at risk.

"[T]he technology to help control BYOD has come very far as well," Health IT Security noted. "Some vendor solutions create a lot of options around device security."

To truly protect their patients' information, healthcare providers must be careful to choose the right options in this regard. Among the most viable and valuable resources available to these organizations are secure file sharing tools. These solutions are specifically designed to protect data in BYOD environments without imposing too great a burden on staff members. After all, many healthcare workers will likely resent too great an intrusion into their personally owned devices. If they must also go through a multi-step, time-consuming process to ensure that the information they access remains protected, they will be very likely to circumvent these tools, thereby creating an even greater risk of a data breach.

By choosing secure file sharing solutions that are easy to use and reliable, healthcare providers can offer a higher quality of service to their patients, and ultimately become more efficient and effective without increasing risk.

As Health IT Security noted, while data security does require an investment, the potential damage that can be wrought due to a breach is far too damaging to risk.