5 Ways to Enhance Both Hospital Safety and Cybersecurity
Whatever your hospital’s budget might be, think critically about how funds are allocated for both physical and digital safety.
Hospital security is an ongoing concern for healthcare facilities. Physical safety is important, of course, but it’s also critical to keep patients’ data and health records safe as well. Maintaining high cybersecurity standards helps keep hospitals compliant with government regulations and reduces the possibility of a catastrophic data breach.
Staying ahead of potential threats isn’t easy for hospitals. It involves being proactive while also having a comprehensive plan in place, in case of an emergency or data breach situation. There’s no way to prevent all safety incidents, of course, so you just have to be prepared as much as possible for any situation that might come up.
Because no system is perfect, it’s worth taking a look at your safety protocols on a regular basis and seeing where you can increase or improve upon them. Here are five ways to boost both physical and digital security at your medical facility.
1. Perform Simultaneous Audits
The first and most important step you can take to improve hospital security is to perform regular audits of your facility’s security protocols and cybersecurity measures. This is important for establishing a baseline and seeing where there might be vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
Performing both types of audits is important. Physical security is critical for patient and staff safety, as there have been many incidents in hospitals across the country ranging from attacks on nurses and doctors to thefts of expensive equipment or even infants. Cybersecurity keeps patient data safe and allows hospitals to stay in compliance with HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
In addition to identifying all areas of weakness in your hospital’s defenses, you should also consider the seriousness of each potential threat, ideally using reliable data to make your assessment. Putting more resources into fighting threats that pose the most likely and serious harm to the hospital makes practical sense and helps you optimize your budget.
2. Require Check-Ins and Reduce Visitors’ Physical Access
Hospitals have unknown people coming in and out all day and night. Doctors, nurses, and other staff members are constantly busy with their duties and don’t have time to keep an eye out for people who shouldn’t be there. Keeping track of wandering visitors isn’t the responsibility of healthcare providers, but these unknown people can pose a significant risk to the safety of medical staff and patients.
There are a couple of ways to reduce potential thefts and violence from unauthorized personnel in a hospital setting. First, your security team should be limiting the access of visitors to certain areas of the facility. That might mean putting new security devices on some of the doors, adding cameras, and installing a check-in system. This allows the security team to more easily track visitors and prevents them from accessing specific areas. Guards should be stationed strategically to reduce unauthorized access.
3. Minimize the Use of Portable Devices and Use Encryption
A huge cybersecurity vulnerability within hospitals is the use of portable devices, such as laptops and tablets. While these are very convenient for healthcare staff, their portability makes them more likely to be the source of a data breach.
Most hospitals have excellent protections on their networks, for instance, but these devices can be carried out of the hospital and used on any network, which can open them up to vulnerabilities. Even just allowing someone to see the screen of a device containing protected information can constitute a breach.
Limiting the use of these portable devices as much as possible, especially off of the hospital campus, will help to reduce the potential for a data breach. Additionally, all portable devices should have any sensitive information encrypted in order to stay in line with the government’s best practices for HIPAA compliance.
4. Provide Appropriate Training for All Personnel
At the end of the day, most security incidents occur due to human error, especially on the digital side of things. One of the best things you can do to increase the safety of your hospital is to ensure that all employees get regular training on security and cybersecurity protocols.
Many people don’t think about potential safety issues, like letting a visitor wander the hallways alone or leaving a laptop open while they run to the restroom. However, these kinds of seemingly “harmless” errors can lead to major incidents that can cost hospitals a huge amount of money and credibility.
Staff members should have to follow best practices for cybersecurity and hospital safety. That might mean changing their passwords frequently, avoiding clicking on email attachments, and informing security of any unauthorized personnel they spot on the hospital campus, among other things.
In addition to comprehensive safety and security training, hospitals should also have clear policies surrounding security topics. That way, all staff members know the hospital’s expectations and the consequences if they aren’t met.
5. Create a Culture of Security
Since humans are generally the biggest weakness in a hospital’s security plan, one of the most effective ways to improve safety within your facility is to create a culture of security that makes everyone feel involved and accountable.
A culture of security means that every member of your staff feels partial responsibility for creating a safe environment. They have the training they need to report or respond to threats appropriately, and they do not let unsafe behavior slide. Additionally, they understand that security is part of the care they are obligated to provide.
Creating a culture of security at your hospital isn’t an easy task, but it can help to ensure that potential threats are identified fast enough that they can be resolved without anyone getting hurt or any patient records becoming compromised.
Security is a Worthwhile Investment
Efficient hospitals today are data-driven and administrators are constantly looking for ways to streamline or enhance overall efficiency within the facility. However, that should not mean that leadership can compromise on the quality of the hospital’s safety protocols.
Whatever your budget might be, think critically about how you allocate funds for both physical and digital safety. Putting your security budget where it will do the most good isn’t always easy, but it’s important for reducing waste and minimizing the possibility of a major incident.
Ultimately, investments in physical security and cybersecurity save hospitals money by reducing incident-related costs and breaches that can impact reputation in addition to monetary losses.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education.
Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.
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