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A proactive approach to cybersecurity: Adopting best practices is critical

Jon Moore (jon.moore@clearwatercompliance.com) is Senior Vice President and Chief Risk Officer, Clearwater, Nashville, TN.

For far too long, many healthcare organizations viewed cybersecurity as a problem exclusively for their IT departments. Leaders at these organizations failed to appreciate how a single cyber incident could have lasting—and potentially devastating—consequences for the organization as a whole, its patients, and partners.

Unfortunately, many healthcare executives and their boards are now learning the hard way that data privacy and security are no longer just technical issues for the IT team that are hidden behind complicated jargon.

In 2021, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigated a record number of breaches. Its breach portal shows 714 reported breaches of protected health information affecting records of 500 or more individuals for that year.[1] This represents a 7.7% increase over the previous year. Ten of those incidents exposed a million or more records each. As of March 10, there have been an additional 102 reported breaches of 500 or more records and another million-plus record breach.

These breaches are costing healthcare a record-breaking amount of money. IBM’s Cost of a Breach Report 2021[2] cites healthcare again at the top of the list—for 11th consecutive year—as the industry with the highest average cost of a breach. In 2021 that average cost reached $9.23 million, compared to $7.13 million in 2020. With the number of successful breaches last year—reflective of what we’ve seen since the onset of the pandemic—it wouldn’t be surprising, when the numbers are tallied for the 2022 report, to see it continuing to rise.

That’s why it’s becoming ever more apparent that healthcare organizations can no longer approach cybersecurity reactively and as simply an IT problem.

Today, the most successful healthcare organizations take a more proactive and holistic approach to their cybersecurity and risk management programs. They understand that now is the time to adopt best practices and better prepare themselves for the increasing likelihood of attacks and incidents.

The good news is that there are now many incentives to take action, and with proper guidance and support, your organization can be well on its way to reducing your cyber risks today and in the future.

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