When a ransomware attack hits a healthcare organization and takes its systems down, healthcare staff need to make sure they can maintain patient care. But maintaining patient care requires sharing patient information – and the usual systems that protect PHI and ensure HIPAA compliance are down. This has become an increasing reality: ransomware attacks have risen a whopping 71% in the last month alone. Using SMS or email to coordinate patient care puts already vulnerable patient information at even more risk. And using old-fashioned paper systems multiplies healthcare staff’s workload and slows down patient care. It puts healthcare providers between a rock and a hard place when they are in an already tough position.
Let’s take a quick look at the impact of ransomware attacks for healthcare organizations. The average cost is as high as $1.4 million. They cause an average of 15 days of downtime and the fines for texting PHI and violating HIPAA can range from a few hundred dollars to $1.5 million per year.
Healthcare organizations can’t afford this length of downtime, especially during a pandemic, but the last thing you want during a ransomware attack is for your costs to possibly double because staff placed sensitive information subject to HIPAA compliance and PHI at greater risk. The good news is that with the right communications platform, you can protect already vulnerable information – and continue patient care. Here’s what to look for in selecting a platform.
Make Sure You’re in Control of Patient Information at All Times
Select a platform that guarantees healthcare staff remain in control of any PHI at all times. HIPAA requires healthcare providers to have a system in place to monitor who has access to PHI. In other words, information subject to HIPAA and PHI should never slip out of healthcare staff’s control. This means that encryption, while also a must-have, is not enough. While a standard encryption messaging platform protects information in-transit, once it’s reached the device, anyone can forward or copy it and it can stay indefinitely on the device – putting already vulnerable information at further risk.
Choose a Lightweight Platform
A HIPAA-compliant platform is only so useful as it can run on systems that are available. That’s why you should be able to run the communication platform you choose to use on infrastructure you have easily on hand – like healthcare staff’s personal phones and tablets. That way you aren’t reliant on your main systems when they’ve been attacked, you won’t have to spend money on new and bulky infrastructure, and healthcare staff will be able to stay on their feet as they coordinate patient care.
Make it Easy on Healthcare Staff
Keep it simple when picking a communication platform. A ransomware attack is an emergency and healthcare staff should not be overwhelmed by having to adapt to a new tool. Opt for a platform that allows staff to focus solely on immediate issues and isn’t complicated by multiple settings. It should be easy to download and easy to begin using, without a learning curve. Ideally, it mirrors the look and feel of other apps so that staff feel fully at ease with it. Collaborating should be as simple as snapping a photo of a patient’s health record with a mobile device and sending it over to another doctor.
The Upshot: Healthcare Providers Don’t Have to Worry About Making Patient Information More Vulnerable
A ransomware attack doesn’t have to compromise patient care. A communication platform that is lightweight, intuitive and keeps hospital staff in control of patient communication ensures that healthcare providers can continue to maintain efficient, quality patient care without putting information at additional risk – even in the face of crisis.