Cyber Security and Data Analytics
By Kim Harrington
Data Analytics, the process by which large sets of data are used to identify patterns or opportunities for improvement, is becoming an essential tool for managing healthcare organizations. Leveraging data analytics can help organizations make smarter decisions about their operations, including patient care, public health issues, and the management of hospital supplies. Today’s healthcare providers must be able to collect, store and analyze massive amounts of medical records, but protecting this sensitive information remains a high priority. At HealthTECH Resources, a team of healthcare IT experts helps clients use data analytics to gain a competitive edge, leveraging advanced technologies to develop custom solutions that address the unique needs of individual healthcare organizations.
Why is Cyber Security Vital in Healthcare?
Cyber attacks are a major concern for healthcare organizations, but recent technological advances have made it easier to protect medical data. In 2013, the average healthcare organization experienced 5.2 cyber incidents, according to an IBM Institute for Business Value report. Healthcare security measures have improved in recent years, with just 36% of organizations reporting that their data was compromised as of 2013. However, cyber security breaches are still a top concern for healthcare organizations, with 63% of healthcare executives saying that they are spending more than $50,000 per year on cyber security. That is why EMR Consultants, a company poised on providing healthcare technology solutions, recommends that hospitals work with cyber security experts to develop their own data protection standards and policies.
The threats posed by cybercriminals are growing, but the ability to protect critical information has grown as well.
Some of the threats for the healthcare industry are:
- Malware and Ransomware
A form of malware or malicious software, ransomware amounts to a form of cyber extortion. Cybercriminals infect a computer network with malware and then encrypt the data, essentially holding it hostage until a ransom is paid. Malicious software can infiltrate systems through emails containing links or attachments, bypass firewalls, and spread quickly throughout an organization’s computer systems.
- Viruses and Botnets
More technically sophisticated than malware, viruses work in tandem with the network infrastructure by hijacking an organization’s computers. The malicious software, called a botnet, makes infected computers part of a vast network that can be used for various criminal activities. Healthcare providers should be aware that hackers can use botnets to launch crippling denial-of-service attacks on their systems or stage elaborate confidence schemes such as fake medical appointments that are designed to steal patients’ data to commit identity theft.
- Hardware and Software Attacks
Malicious software can give hackers access to the physical hardware in a network’s servers, workstations, routers, and other devices. Once they have broken into a system, hackers can alter or destroy data or even render the system unusable. Hackers could also cause havoc through less-destructive means, such as installing malware that hides behind authentication systems and cannot be removed unless the system is taken offline or replaced. Developers are essential to making sure that the threat is under control.
Role of Cyber Security and ways to improve it
Data and information are the lifeblood of many healthcare organizations, and cyber security can help safeguard them. In fact, federal health care regulators and state authorities often require that healthcare organizations put safeguards in place to protect patient data from security breaches.
To improve cybersecurity, healthcare organizations must implement the following practices with the best security audit:
- Use strong passwords – Passwords are the first line of defense. It only takes a few seconds for a hacker to guess an easy password and gain access to an account or network that could then be used to access other areas of the organization’s data. To keep hackers out, healthcare organizations should enforce strong password policies that include special characters, capital letters, numbers, and minimum lengths of eight characters.
- Enable multi-factor authentication – Multi-factor authentication uses more than one method to prove an individual’s identity, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access. For example, healthcare organizations may require that incoming employees have a key fob or other physical device that generates a one-time password. Or, they may provide two-factor authentication that requires a combination of something someone knows (such as a password) and something they have (like the digital token sent by the company’s mobile app). This can improve your overall cyber security.
- Implement source-control software – Source-control software allows employees to keep track of all changes made to data as they go through the organization’s network. Keeping detailed records makes it easier for IT staff to spot suspicious activity on a day-to-day basis and prevent incidents.
- Implement patch management – When malware or viruses are used to gain entry into networks, the most effective way to disrupt those attempts is by quickly installing patches. These patches are intended to fix holes in systems before hackers can exploit them. Many organizations have outdated software that can be exploited, so patch management is crucial to keeping systems secure.
- Security training for staff – Cybersecurity isn’t just a matter of technical infrastructure. Many security breaches occur not because of a lack of technical know-how but because employees have lost sight of the importance of cyber security. Staff should be provided with security training that helps them understand how their actions could affect the organization’s cyber safety. This could include training on how to recognize phishing scams and avoid clicking on links from unknown senders.
What Is Health Care Data Analytics?
Health care data analytics is the process of interpreting large amounts of data to make better-informed decisions. For example, a hospital might use data analytics software to run patient records through computers to find people with a particular disease who are more likely to be offered a specific treatment and therefore have an increased chance of survival.
The software can help doctors understand which treatments work best for each individual based on their circumstances.
The Importance of Data Analytics in Healthcare
Data analytics is of particular importance in healthcare as it allows doctors to make better decisions and identify trends in the data they have collected.
Without data analysis, doctors might be unaware of a particular pattern that could help them treat their patients more effectively.
The software can also help doctors to identify risks earlier on, which means they can take steps to reduce that risk before it becomes a significant problem.
Hospitals and other healthcare organizations are increasingly using data analytics software to make better decisions about what treatment patients should receive and how to administer it.
Some of the advantages of this approach include:
- Increased Efficiency – Doctors already spend a great deal of time managing patient records, but they might not be spending enough time analyzing them. With data analytics software, they can spend more time on patient care, reducing the amount of downtime that patients experience and increasing the number of patients who receive treatment in a shorter period.
- Improved Cost-effectiveness – The costs of treatment are often determined by the number of patients who choose to receive it. So, it’s important to find ways to improve patient choice and understanding of this issue. For example, hospitals might use data analytics software to help patients understand the potential side effects associated with a particular treatment before they choose to have it.
- Reduced Healthcare Risks – Hospitals need to ensure that their systems are secure and that any medical treatments being carried out on patients are appropriate and safe. By analyzing records, they can ensure that they have the appropriate security measures.
- Easier Analysis of Data – Doctors need to have quick and easy access to patient data to make decisions quickly. However, data is often stored in different locations on different computers, making it difficult for medical staff to find the information they need when they need it. By using data analytics software, the data can be pulled together into a single database and made available to doctors wherever they are.
This has the added bonus of giving doctors a single place to look for any data anomalies that might suggest that a patient is at risk or needs a particular treatment.
- Improved Communication – Data analytics software can make it easier for medical staff to communicate with others, even when working in different locations. This allows hospitals to communicate about the progress of different treatments, saving time and money and helping facilities work together more effectively.
Healthcare Data Analytics Examples
There are several different types of software that EMR Consultants provide for healthcare data analytics. These include:
- Management software – This might be known as clinical information systems or hospital information management systems and is designed to manage records such as patient records, lab results, treatment plans, and other forms of health data. These databases can often be updated remotely by staff members, making it easier for them to spot trends in the data they are analyzing.
- Data warehouses – These are very similar to management systems but can store more than just data. They can be used to store and display other types of information relevant to a patient’s overall health, such as their social network or online activity. This might make it easier for doctors to spot emerging trends in their patients’ health and create more effective treatment plans.
- Data mining – This involves using software to find patterns in data by looking for specific sets of new or unexpected information that might explain a patient’s history, treatment, or recovery. Such information might include changes in patient behavior, doctor-patient relationships, hospital records, and online activity.
- Predictive analytics – This involves using software to make predictions about future patient behavior, illnesses, and outcomes. For example, a doctor might use predictive analytics software to predict that a patient who has had cancer in the past has an 80% chance of experiencing further issues with the disease.
- Data visualization – This involves using software to create interactive charts, graphs, and other ways of displaying data about a patient’s treatment and progress. This is particularly useful for explaining complex or technical information in an easy-to-understand format, allowing doctors and patients alike to come together to find solutions.
Cyber security and data analytics are two of the most critical aspects of healthcare technology today.
Both are essential for helping healthcare professionals to make the best decisions about patient treatment, manage their workloads more effectively, understand their patients’ needs better and identify any risks that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The software involved in both of these processes can be developed to suit individual organizations, making it easier for them to carry out their work more efficiently.
EMR Consultants provides solutions that will help you develop healthcare products & solutions that can improve efficiency, increase the accuracy of results and address patient concerns.
Editor’s Note: About the author, Kim Harrington, Freelance Writer
Kim is known for her love of technology and her dedication to writing based on facts and providing well-researched articles. When she’s not writing, she spends most of her time cooking and traveling with her kids.