Technology and Data Security Risks In Healthcare’s Remote-Driven Work Environment
Authored by Tim Hoskins – Senior Director of Client Services, Vyne Medical for The Healthcare Guys — June 8, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to find new, non-traditional ways to keep their businesses afloat and their employees safe. Hospitals and healthcare systems face the unique challenge of preparing for the worst while also protecting their employees as COVID-19 continues to spread. With frontline healthcare workers having no choice but to provide hands-on care to ill patients, teams are stretched thin. Non-clinical hospital departments also face a myriad of challenges with some facilities cutting staff or reassigning team members to different roles as furloughs and even shut-downs occur.
As hospitals seek ways to keep staff employed and their organizations afloat, for many, remote working has become more than just an innovative concept; it is a necessity. Moving administrative teams like patient access, patient financial services, scheduling, and others out of their brick-and-mortar offices into virtual, home offices is a bold move that poses a myriad of technology and security challenges. In some cases, this abrupt switch to a remote work environment did not allow healthcare organizations to be as deliberate with their migrations from office to home as they would have liked.
Proper equipment and training are a necessity
According to an IBM Security Work From Home Study conducted in June 2020, 53 percent of employees reported using their personal laptops and computers for business operations while working from home. Additionally, over half (52 percent) of respondents working with personal identifiable information (PII) in their jobs said their employers did not provide tools to secure their personal laptops or computers.
When hospitals’ revenues declined because of canceled elective procedures in response to the pandemic, many organizations were unable or unwilling to finance large-scale security projects at a time when attacks were increasing. To put it simply, with so many people suddenly working remotely, data security risks are amplified.
Formerly common security threats like malware, phone scams and phishing, now have a new landscape of potentially less-secure avenues for attack. With 45% of remote workers reporting that they had received no new training on data or device security since moving to a virtual work environment, the risk of data breaches or other security issues is elevated.
Investing in remote workforce enablement is critical
Even now, as some businesses begin to bring teams back into their physical offices, the need for data security remains high. Investments in technology and programs to support those work-from-home initiatives are equally important.
In a recent Forbes article Tariq Rauf, founder, and CEO of Qatalog, stated, “Many companies have cobbled together a Band-aid tool stack to address the challenges of distributed work. Few, however, have created a complete digital workplace environment that enables employees to thrive in a virtual setting.”
Our teams began working via a hybrid office/remote model before the pandemic, with strict policies in place to promote security and productivity. We’ve shared with others those best practices along with proven technology solutions that enable hospital teams to work remotely. Significant components include paperless document exchange, data encryption, and protected access to sensitive information.
Working with the likes of Floyd Health and Moffitt Cancer Center to implement work-from-home programs, we discovered that – in addition to physical equipment, software tools and start-up instructions for remote teams – employees must receive ongoing security training including checklists for maintaining compliance and safeguarding PII.
The (home) office of the future
With nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers expressing a desire to continue working remotely, there will be changes to the traditional office-based approach of most businesses. According to a recent PwC study, “The office is here to stay, but its role is set to change. Less than one in five executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. The rest are grappling with how widely to extend remote work options, with just 13 percent of executives prepared to let go of the office for good.”
In 2021 and beyond, businesses will look vastly different than they have in the past. As it is with any innovation, there will certainly be continued opportunity for improvement. Creating a solid structure to enable work-from-home programs is a must for any organization, and clearly defining requirements around technology and data security is paramount – especially for healthcare organizations. “With a bit of effort,” said Rauf, “team and company leaders can go from surviving to thriving and empower their people to do their best work by connecting tools in a way that’s complimentary.”