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5 Considerations for an Effective Healthcare Risk Management System

Posted on March 10th, 2021

The healthcare industry is no exception to the rapid levels of transformation we’re seeing across multiple industries right now. As more facilities begin to leverage electronic health records (EHRs) and internet-connected medical devices for patient care, organizations are becoming more reliant on advanced technologies.

While these changes have helped advance patient care in many ways, they have also introduced the healthcare sector to greater levels of risk.

As a result, cybersecurity is more important than ever for effective healthcare risk management. Let’s take a deeper look at key considerations today’s healthcare organizations should keep in mind as they build out a risk management system.

What is healthcare risk management?

Healthcare risk management refers to the process of identifying, analyzing, and implementing systems and processes to protect critical assets from a range of potential risks. Due to the confidential nature of healthcare data, effective risk management in the industry can be the difference between life and death, thus, healthcare organizations cannot afford to overlook this critical process.

What is the importance of risk management in healthcare?

Healthcare risk management is crucial as the industry undergoes a rapid transformation as a result of emerging medical technologies and mounting patient data privacy concerns. Of the many reasons for implementing cybersecurity risk management systems, the three overarching objectives for risk management in healthcare are:

  • Safeguard patient data and records: Healthcare organizations have access to sensitive data, which if mishandled, could be potentially life-threatening to a patient. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lays out requirements and guidelines for organizations in the industry to follow to ensure that patient data is not being put at risk.
  • Identify network vulnerabilities: Cybersecurity is a growing concern for healthcare organizations and should be considered a key component of any risk management system. Especially as many are increasingly adopting new technologies and undergoing digital transformation, having a plan in place to identify and monitor network vulnerabilities is a must.
  • Ensuring business continuity and patient safety: In the event of an attack, healthcare risk management helps organizations return to business as usual as quickly as possible. By taking the time now to prepare the various scenarios, you can help ensure that your organization is prepared for what may come tomorrow.

5 considerations for an effective healthcare risk management system

As healthcare organizations work to build out their cybersecurity risk management systems, there are key components for the industry to consider such as risk assessments, vendor risk management, and regulatory compliance.

Let’s explore the 5 things to consider when getting started:

1. Identify potential risks

The first step to building a healthcare risk management system is to identify all potential risks or vulnerabilities within your organization’s network. This allows you to gain a more complete view of your potential attack surface so you can begin determining your organizational risk tolerance and risk appetite.

Another way that security teams can gain insight into potential threats is through cybersecurity threat intelligence. Threat intelligence refers to data that can be used to inform security teams about cyber threats from the past, present, and future. By leveraging this information, organizations can gain insight into threat actors’ motivations or techniques, allowing them to proactively prepare for both emerging and advancing threats.

2. Analyze and classify the risk

As previously mentioned, it’s important to define your organization’s risk tolerance and risk appetite levels, since this is what will be used as the basis of criteria when evaluating risks. After your organization has identified any possible threats or vulnerabilities, the next step is to analyze and classify risks based on the likelihood that they will occur as well as the potential impact of a breach on your business operations.

Your organization will be faced with many threats, meaning it’s likely that you will not be able to take on them all. For this reason, risk prioritization is critical. Once you have determined the relevancy of each threat, your team can begin to prioritize risks and determine the best course of action for addressing the largest issues that would cause the greatest disruption first.

3. Assess and establish security controls

After your team has prioritized risks, the next step is to assess your organization’s existing security controls in order to identify any gaps that need to be closed. With access to sensitive patient data and other critical assets, healthcare organizations need to be able to prove that they are taking the necessary steps to protect it.

By evaluating existing controls, and establishing new ones to address weak spots, your organization can prove that you are doing the work needed to keep confidential patient security data safe. At this point in the process, it is also important to begin building incident response plans that clearly outline each person’s responsibilities should a data breach or attack occur.

4. Third-party risk management

Healthcare organizations are increasingly employing the assistance of third-party vendors to streamline patient care and optimize operational efficiencies. While these vendors are likely to have access to confidential protected health information (PHI), they may not be following the same stringent security controls that your organization has put in place for its network.

This is why it's imperative that your team has comprehensive visibility into the cybersecurity posture of your healthcare organization’s third-party vendors. With the impact of a third-party data breach growing, it’s more important than ever to have a complete, outside-in look at your entire IT ecosystem.

5. Continuously monitor risks and compliance

The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving, growing both in number and severity. The only way to effectively maintain strong cyber hygiene is to continuously monitor your entire ecosystem’s network. This allows your organization to identify and respond to threats as they arise, which in turn helps your security team stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Industry-specific compliance regulations such as HIPAA, HHS, and PCI are also important considerations for an effective healthcare risk management system. To avoid falling out of compliance, your organization should continuously demonstrate the practices and controls that have been implemented to maintain compliance and keep patient data protected.

How SecurityScorecard enables comprehensive healthcare risk management

SecurityScorecard enables organizations in the healthcare sector to gain a comprehensive view across their IT ecosystem, including third- and fourth-party vendors. With the ability to see what a hacker sees, security teams can discover, monitor, and report on cyber health. This combined with advanced cybersecurity threat intelligence and our industry-standard security ratings enables the proactive protection of critical data and assets within a network.

The impact of a data breach or attack on a healthcare organization goes beyond financial or reputational harm, as human lives may be at stake. SecurityScorecard enables risk management for the healthcare sector, helping to ensure that patient health and wellness are always kept top of mind.

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