The advancement of technology supports the fast-paced nature of healthcare, from the use of the internet to the implementation of electronic health record systems across the globe. Technology is not without its challenges, however, and organizations must be aware of the common threats that could topple an IT infrastructure. Regular security audits should be part of a comprehensive operating procedure for any IT department, as they help create a layer of protection for devices, users, and the entire organization.
IT departments should conduct a number of different types of security audits. Four of the most common audits are outlined below to give you a better understanding of why your organization needs a robust security audit policy.
HIPAA Compliance Audits
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 revolves around the protection of information. HIPAA is directly tied to compliance and the regulations set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Healthcare organizations that are not compliant with HIPAA or fall outside the regulatory guidelines may be subject to fines; compliance audits are not excluded from these guidelines.
Compliance audits are generally conducted to ensure that a business operates ethically and legally, but this type of cybersecurity audit is not a trivial inspection of policies or internal controls. A HIPAA compliance audit focuses on a healthcare organization’s compliance with standards that are established by the hospital or facility and the rules outlined in HIPAA. A HIPAA compliance audit pinpoints any changes that need to be made to processes or policies by assessing the following:
- Understanding of HIPAA rules
- How an organization protects patient data
- Level of prevention of HIPAA violations
- How an organization updates change with HIPAA
- Documentation practices
HIPAA compliance audits can create a level of awareness to ensure that organizations are effectively protecting data, following protocols, and developing robust policies.
Computer and network security audits are designed to find threats that could cripple an infrastructure. Penetration tests are specialized audits that utilize an expert IT professional who is proficient in “hacking” your system. The penetration test allows the professional to attempt a security breach for the sole purpose of detecting potential weaknesses in an organization’s operating system, mobile device platforms, or cloud technologies used to store electronic health record systems or other information.
Penetration tests can be conducted on internal systems, such as secured systems that are only accessible by employees. External penetration tests allow access to public-facing systems, like patient portals or company websites. In either scenario, these IT security audits obtain valuable data that can measure an organization’s ability to fight off a real security breach or threat.
A vulnerable system has weaknesses. Vulnerability audits identify system weaknesses in security protocols, controls, implementation, or design that can result in a security breach.
Vulnerability audits are conducted by your IT team or a third party. The audit is performed by using specialized software that scans through each system to determine if any weakness is present. This provides an analysis of the weakness, how it can be corrected or strengthened, and ways to improve protocols to meet security standards. The audit itself may produce some false positives, so multiple scans may be necessary.
As your organization matures, the potential to become more vulnerable to security breaches expands. Vulnerability audits are a necessary component of protection for your infrastructure and should be conducted regularly throughout the year. Consistency is the key with these types of audits, as weaknesses can creep in without detection. The more your IT team is prepared to handle breaches, the better your chances are of fighting off potentially detrimental damage.
Healthcare organizations are always focused on risk assessment and management to mitigate harm to patients. Risk is not only associated with patient care but also with systems and IT infrastructure. Risk audits are similar to vulnerability audits but are more generalized because they cross over to multiple categories, including compliance and security.
Risk is about exposure to harm; eliminating risk means that an organization is focused on creating a safe environment for employees, customers, and in the case of a healthcare organization, patients. Healthcare is bound by regulations and rules for compliance, so any risk could potentially cause harm or a policy violation. Risk audits are a method of assessing potential weaknesses or even analyzing active breaches or exposures to develop strategies for avoiding them in the future.
How Medicus IT Can Keep Your Healthcare Organization Safe
Medicus IT has a team of experts who are focused on providing you with valuable insights on how to keep your healthcare organization and IT infrastructure safe and free from debilitating threats. From data security audits and assessments to remediation planning, Medicus is the answer to your auditing needs. Contact our team of experts today to learn about how you can keep your healthcare organization in the clear from security or compliance risks.