Like many other sectors, British healthcare has seen a wider adoption of remote healthcare services in part thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift towards remote working that followed. Now, many healthcare providers and service users are holding consultations remotely and using remote healthcare platforms to deliver their services.
While convenient and expanding the access to care, there is also a crucial dimension of cyber security to consider, as important patient data will need to be digitally stored and communicated across more touchpoints to deliver these services. Whether you work in clinical care, a hospital, or in mental health services, in this blog we will show you how to ensure that remote healthcare services are delivered securely.
Cyber Security for Remote Healthcare Services
Remote healthcare services involve delivering consultations and treatments using digital platforms. Whether its consultations via video calls or messaging, remote monitoring tools for patient IoT devices, or the digital systems and platforms that remote workers are accessing, these all need to be carefully considered to deliver a secure experience on all fronts.
For example, connecting to your platforms using home-routers, personal computers or mobile devices can present vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals. IoT devices can also present vulnerabilities that can be used by cyber threats to access data. A number of tools can help with remote cyber security challenges, including VPNs, encryption tools, and intelligent network threat detection and prevention systems.
Securing Your Network, Devices and Users
Delivering these remote services involves three key pillars to consider. For organisations delivering services for the NHS or collaborating with it, there are tools such as NHS Identity Service and frameworks like the Data Security and Protection Toolkit that are available (and often required!) which can help with ensuring that your remote services are delivered securely.
For organisations working more independently of the NHS, there are three key pillars for delivering remote health services more securely.
Your network includes the routers, work devices, servers, IoT devices, switches and your other infrastructure and devices that connect with each other. Your network is the foundation for your IT environment and your cyber security alike. When services are delivered remotely, this can expand the attack surface of potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to gain a foothold in your network.
Delivering services remotely can risk things such as your team using their personal devices to access work resources, or conversely, using work devices to access personal apps and services. Securing your organisation can be achieved by using device management tools and policies, installing antivirus software, patch management software, and more.
Whether or not you have users working from home while delivering remote healthcare services, they can end up falling under the crosshairs of phishing attackers. These attackers will often use targeted email addresses and messaging to try to get healthcare staff to release sensitive information like their credentials.
Taking care to train your users to recognise these threats and respond to them is key, as many cyber incidents occur due to user error.
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Your Key Cyber Security Measures for Remote Healthcare Services
There are a range of key defences you can put in place to shore up the security of your remote healthcare services that we’ve grouped into three categories:
1. Communication and Network Security
End-to-End Encryption: Ensure that wherever data is stored and communicated, that you’re using encryption tools to enhance the security and anonymity of your sensitive data. For example, you can encrypt files on devices, emails, and communications between your services.
Secure Network Access: Ensure your Wi-Fi networks are secure, if your team are accessing sensitive data remotely, ensure they use a powerful VPN that offers security and convenience. Use work device management tools to enforce a secure access and use policy.
Secure Patient Portals: These portals can offer a safe and compliant way for communicating and managing patients and service users if they are not in place already.
2. Access Management and Data Integrity
Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) Tools: Implement MFA on as many applications and services as you can for both your team and service users alike, this will offer an extra layer of security against cyber threats, even if they gain access to user credentials.
Data Backup and Recovery Plan: It’s crucial to continuity and meeting data protection requirements that a data backup and recovery solution is in place.
Regular Software Updates and Patch Management: Keeps systems up-to-date and secured against known vulnerabilities. Review your vendors’ hardware and software to ensure it is still being supported with regular updates where applicable.
3. Proactive Defence and Cyber Readiness
- Offer User Awareness Training: Train new and existing staff regularly on cyber security threats and data protection best practices.
- Conduct Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing: Work with an expert MSP to test the security of your network practically and offer actionable insights for addressing any found vulnerabilities.
- Create An Incident Response Plan: This plan will enable you to respond to different incident scenarios, including data breaches, more systematically, quickly and effectively.
- Implement Device Management Tools: These tools can help you to ensure your network is accessed by authorised devices, and that these devices are used in alignment with your IT policy.
By implementing these cyber security measures, you can better ensure that your organisation and patient data remains secure. Remote health services are in many ways the future, but it will be important to ensure that your digital premises remain secure in the process of delivering better healthcare services to patients, wherever they may be.
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