How to Protect Sensitive Medical Data

By Howard Dawson | Published 3/1/2019 1

Graphic of medical data security 1500 x 1000

Photo source: iStock Photos

Cyber attacks continue to pose a problem for every industry, but especially healthcare. To date, over 89% of healthcare corporations have experienced a data breach in which patient records were compromised or stolen. With so much critical information at stake, the need to protect sensitive data is at an all-time high.

Here are a few ways to put protocols in place to prevent data breaches 

  • Encryption

Mobile devices are infused widely into the infrastructure of all types of healthcare facilities and organizations. This provides staff access to online resources whether they are on the premises or working remotely. Additionally, individuals who visit these facilities are also allowed some form of online access to use their devices.

To avoid putting the privacy of sensitive medical data at risk, encryption methods must be implemented within the devices healthcare professionals use. If not, they could easily be compromised if left unattended or lost. This reinforces safety protocols and prevents unauthorized users from accessing the data. Firewalls must also be configured to allow online access for visitors without providing gateways to breach the system.

  • Training

There can never be enough training for individuals who help run the day-to-day operations of a facility or practice. From top management to front desk employees, everyone must be on the same page when determining what data comes in and out.

It is also helpful to do the following:

  • Creating a manual to describe policies and procedures
  • Implementing password protocols
  • Train the entire staff on how to identify a cyber attack or phishing scheme 
  • Provide different levels of access to determine who can see and manipulate files

Many organizations conduct drills to determine who understands the protocols and who needs additional training. Employees should be able to recognize a malicious email that is attempting to come through the system.

Password breaches are another big problem in healthcare facilities. Employees must be trained to keep their password confidential at all times. Further, the system should automatically prompt a password change every 30 to 45 days.

Related:  How A.I. and Cybersecurity are Transforming Healthcare

  • Current Technology

There is nothing worse than having an archaic system in place to protect sensitive data. When housing data such as medical files, be sure to follow rules and regulations that are available on a national level.

One of the best ways to maintain regulatory standards is by consistently updating the technology used within the facility and by the employees on and off campus. Antivirus software, digital signatures, and a strong firewall can help.

Implementing a HIPAA-approved system where patients can submit their paperwork online before reaching the facility can also deter cybercriminals from accessing the data.

The system should have authentication protocols, identity verification, and an audit trail that shows every action the patient takes, and the actions taken by the facility.

In every instance, when handling sensitive medical data, there should be a documented trail on who accessed the system, when, where and what actions they performed. If a change needs to be made, there should be an authentication method to ensure the right person is able to make those changes.

Related:  5 Ways to Improve Patient Data Security

  • Vendors

Healthcare organizations that handle sensitive medical data must be careful with the vendors they select to conduct third-party protection. When searching for software vendors, making sure they have HIPAA-certified protected systems is key.

Additionally, they should be given a copy of the security manual to ensure everyone is on the same page. It is important to ensure they have stringent security standards. They must meet or exceed those of the organization, with privacy, shutdown and authentication features that accommodate those needs.

If a vendor cannot provide their safety protocols or is not
on the same page as the organization, their services are not needed.

  • Limit Data Footprint

Every healthcare facility should have a plan in place in the event of an emergency or disaster. Provisions for their files to be accessed from a remote storage location should be included in the plan.

In some cases, this storage may be in the cloud. In other cases, confidential documents are maintained in another building.

Organizations must implement procedures that limit their data footprint while protecting the patient and adhering to the law.

Utilizing digital signatures allows the healthcare organization to maintain the signatures while the vendor deletes its copy. This ensures the files are kept confidential with no additional risk of being compromised by a third party.

Acquiring the best HIPAA compliant software for the organization is the first step in protecting sensitive medical data.

There are a few options on the market that have been highly rated and compliant:

  • Surfshark

Surfshark provides private access to the open internet, allowing users to safely access content for those who need privacy with no digital footprint. All traffic sent to and from devices is secure, with malware and phishing attempts immediately blocked. Unlimited devices or certain devices can be connected at different levels.

  • Google G Suite

Google G Suite is HIPAA compliant and ISO-27017, which provides the highest levels of security with cloud-specific information security controls.

  • Microsoft 365

Microsoft uses independent third-party testers to ensure protected health information (PHI) is not at risk. This can also be integrated with certain medical systems for continuity within the infrastructure.

  • Updox

Specifically built for small medical practices, this software has several certifications, including one from the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC).

  • JotForm

This software helps to create and managed HIPAA compliance data and forms. It can be integrated into G Suite and Dropbox.

  • FolderAnchor

A real-time cloud storage solution and disaster recovery service, this HIPAA compliant software offers features such as remote desktop device wipes, file locks, team collaboration tools and more.

  • CareCloud

This software offers a disaster prevention backup service that keeps the organization prepared for potential data failure caused by a disaster or technical issue while protecting the organization from ransomware.

Custom Solutions for Protection are Available 

Having custom solutions available to protect sensitive data and prevent security breaches is more crucial than ever. These tips and software recommendations can be used to help organizations protect their infrastructure, employees, and clients against breaches that could severely impact privacy standards now and in the future.

Howard Dawson


Howard Dawson is a seasoned tech writer and wellness enthusiasts. He challenges himself with new projects as he grows his portfolio. When not working he tries to stay active by doing a bit of Muay Thai and strength training.


  • Password managers are useful when it comes to workplace security, lots of workers use simple passwords that they can remember and it they can easily be hacked, password manager would allow one to store complex passwords and have them all accessible. Surfshark is as well a good recommendation, this VPN requires little training since it’s been developed for an ease-of-use. Very important when using public wi-fi.

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