Cybersecurity in Healthcare: Minimizing Risks of Data Breaches

Modern healthcare includes so much tech: patient’s data becomes very vulnerable as it is often stored or transmitted on/to the cloud or physical systems.

Quality healthcare software begins with protected health information (PHI) being secured.

According to Elinext’s sales department, almost every dialogue with our future clients from the healthcare industry begins with questions about compliance with all the major regulations: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and others.

In addition to quite natural care about their patients’ sensitive private data, business people and healthcare providers are worried about crazily severe penalties and fines they’d face if those regulations aren’t met.

The cybersecurity industry is understanding this immediate need and has rapidly grown to address these issues. However, cybersecurity is a constant race. With how quickly technology changes, vulnerabilities also change. 

Companies that are aiming to fight these problems must remain agile, and continuously study and expand their security offerings.

At the same time, healthcare providers, government bodies, and regulatory experts must ensure that all aspects of patient safety, data protection, and privacy, are the highest priority.

In this blog post, we’ll talk a little about HIPAA and its security rules just a little bit, and the best practices, healthcare workers should keep to

In the following part of “Cybersecurity in Healthcare” we’ll cover the realization of security in modern healthcare software development, and cover the biggest and the latest data breaches with the emphasis on their consequences.

HIPAA and GDPR  Privacy and Security Rules

We’ve already mentioned HIPAA – the regulations that have the biggest impact on the US healthcare companies, whereas GDPR is only relevant to healthcare providers that operate in the European Union.

Businesses must take care of keeping up with the latest requirements and regulations themselves (or with the help of their associates).

As for HIPAA, it includes two major components concerning sensitive healthcare data protection: Security and Privacy Rules.

HIPAA Security Rule is all about establishing guidelines and standards for the administrative and technical handling of PHI (Personal Health Information). The rule is focusing on securing the creation, use, and maintenance of electronic personal health information.

HIPAA Privacy Rule is more about focusing on the technical aspects of protecting personal health information and ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of healthcare data. It safeguards the protection of such PHI pieces as health medical records, information about patients’ insurance, and other private data.

The privacy rule focuses on preventing PHI use in ways not previously agreed upon by the patient and limiting the information that can be shared with other entities without prior authorization. 

GDPR is the analog of HIPAA for the European Union. A more strict one, in some ways. 

For instance, under GDPR, an EU citizen could request a healthcare organization to delete their records under certain circumstances. 

Also, GDPR differs in its demand that data breaches be reported within 72 hours of discovery. Under HIPAA, healthcare organizations have 60 days to report breaches.

Best Practices for Keeping Data Safe

To keep data safe, there are best practices, most medical facilities and individuals follow to keep up with the ever-evolving cyber-threat environment. This is how healthcare specialists approach security measures.

Educate and Drill Healthcare Staff on Cybersecurity

The leading cause of data breaches and leaks in healthcare is and always was the human element. Little human errors and missteps sometimes lead to catastrophic consequences from the financial, or ethical point of view.

You can’t prevent all the mistakes, but regular and intensive training of healthcare employees could minimize the risk of data breaches occur.

The more relevant the experience in the field of cybersecurity, the less prone to mistakes people are while interacting with sensitive patients’ data.

Keep a closer look at eLearning solutions dedicated to this matter: corporate training in healthcare

Restrict Access to Data and Monitor Software Logs 

Access restrictions require user authentication, allowing access only to authorized personnel and patients. Elinext often develops custom healthcare IT solutions that requires multi-factor authentication and other methods of validating the person.

Also, healthcare organizations can use data controls to block specific actions involving sensitive data, such as web uploads, unauthorized email sends, copying to external drives, and performing other operations.

Data classifications play an important supporting role in this process by ensuring that sensitive data can be identified and tagged to receive the proper level of protection.

Logging all access and usage data is also crucial, enabling providers and business associates to monitor which users are accessing what information, applications, and other resources, when, and from what devices and locations. 

This is not a preventive measure, but it really helps to detect how a certain data breach occurred.

Encrypt Sensitive Data for Rest and Transit 

Encryption is one of the most useful data protection methods for healthcare organizations. As an outsource software development company, Elinext always has access to the products we deliver, our source code, but never to the sensitive data of real patients.

By encrypting data in transit and at rest, healthcare providers and business associates disallow third-person hackers and attackers to get patient information even if they gain access to the data. 

HIPAA offers recommendations but doesn’t specifically require healthcare organizations to implement data encryption measures but have some specific rules about it. We’ll talk about it in detail in our future publications about different territory-specific compliances. Stay tuned.

Secure Mobile and Connected Devices 

Increasingly, healthcare providers and covered entities utilize mobile devices in the course of doing business, whether it’s a physician using a smartphone to access information to help them treat a patient or an administrative worker processing insurance claims.

Mobile device security requires specific security measures, i.e. enforcing the use of strong passwords, encrypting apps data, making users keep their devices updated with the latest operating system, etc.

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that connected devices also require secure usage.

In the healthcare field, we can mention the following medical devices: blood pressure monitors, cameras used to monitor physical security, optical surgery devices

To maintain adequate connected device security, organizations might ensure IoT devices have a separate network; disable non-essential services on devices before using them; use strong, multi-factor authentication whenever possible.

Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

While having an audit trail helps to identify the cause and other valuable details of an incident after it occurs, proactive prevention is equally important. 

By evaluating risk across a healthcare organization periodically to proactively identify and mitigate potential risks, healthcare providers and their business associates can better avoid costly data breaches and the many other detrimental impacts of a data breach, from reputation damage to penalties from regulatory agencies.

Back up Data and Secure It in Offline Location

Cyberattacks can expose sensitive patient information but they can also compromise data integrity or availability.

Even a natural disaster impacting a healthcare organization’s data center can have disastrous consequences if data isn’t properly backed up. 

Healthcare organizations should have primary and secondary data centers for redundant operations in the event of a disaster or downtime”, advised consulting firm Crowe.


Cybersecurity in healthcare threats continue to evolve and, in turn, so must cybersecurity solutions to combat these threats. In order to stay ahead of these threats, we must increase our situational awareness about what is happening and share more information about what is going on with our peers and colleagues. 

Healthcare organizations must continue to support cybersecurity professionals as they help to safeguard patient data. There is no better time than the present to increase cybersecurity defenses while enhancing the capabilities and knowledge of the staff.