How Do Healthcare Professionals Protect Patient Data from Digital Predators?

Healthcare is a trillion-dollar industry that generates and increasingly depends on enormous quantities of data. Everything from a booked appointment through physical exams to discharge papers creates accurate patient personas that let medical professionals treat us more effectively than ever.

 Yet, amassing so much sensitive data comes with proportionate risks. What are they, and how do healthcare providers tackle them? Here’s what you should know.

The Necessity of Safeguarding Patient Data

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities hoard some of the most unique and sensitive information on their patients. Data breaches affecting a regular business or a bank might expose someone’s password, name, address, or financial details. While bothersome, it’s possible to alter such information or freeze one’s assets to render such leaks less effective.

 Not so with medical information. Healthcare facilities’ databases contain extensive patient records that incorporate their and their families’ medical histories, treatment plans, diagnostic results, and more. Unauthorized access to such data gives hackers deep insights into people’s identities and personal lives. Worse yet, compromised patients may become victims of sophisticated and highly targeted medical fraud.

 Unsurprisingly, the healthcare industry is most heavily affected by data breaches and ransomware attacks. Incidents like the Shields Healthcare Group data breach expose millions of patients’ records, SSNs, insurance numbers, etc., to devastating effect.

What Are Healthcare Providers Doing About This?

Naturally, healthcare professionals know the rising threat and are working with cybersecurity experts to strengthen their defenses. Taking on this evolving challenge requires a multifaceted, holistic approach. These are its cornerstones.

Access control

Both data breaches and malicious insiders can take months to detect, giving them ample opportunity to extract and profit from healthcare facilities’ patient databases. Gaining entry and performing tasks that are out of a particular user’s scope becomes exponentially harder with access controls in place.

 A comprehensive access control system comprises several tools and practices. An enterprise-level password management solution ensures everyone uses strong and one-of-a-kind passwords for each account. It also simplifies logins from different devices while safeguarding password integrity.

 Establishing a role hierarchy and introducing a zero-trust policy lays the groundwork. Coupled with data usage controls, such a system imposes varying restrictions on different user classes yet allows everyone to do their job.

 Finally, logs and periodic audits preserve the records of any activities associated with improper access events and allow for quicker detection.

Data encryption

While monitoring reduces risks, it doesn’t guarantee immunity from breaches or misconduct. To that end, healthcare providers must ensure data integrity at rest and in transit.

Encryption is the most straightforward method of securing medical data at rest. It involves putting the data through a cipher, rendering its contents unreadable without a decryption key. Modern encryption methods rely on algorithms that are impossible to brute force. A successful data breach might let criminals steal a database, but encryption prevents exposing its contents.

Healthcare professionals often message colleagues to confer about patients. They may also practice telemedicine or require remote access to sensitive data while in the field. Ordinarily, this might open them up to man-in-the-middle attacks or surveillance attempts, especially if they use public Wi-Fi.

Virtual private networks mitigate such risks. They encrypt the connection between personal devices and VPN servers, allowing untraceable, safe, anonymous data transfers over the internet. VPNs fortify an otherwise weak link and allow for secure, encrypted file exchanges from anywhere. However, as Reddit’s VPN comparison table shows, not all VPNs provide the same features.


Redundancy is a key aspect of any data protection strategy. Instant access to up-to-date records and other resources means medical facilities experience little to no downtime during theft, natural disasters, or ransomware attacks.

Maintaining several sets of backups is crucial. One should remain offline, isolated from cyberattacks carried out over the internet. Another needs to be off-site to mitigate extended power failure or natural disaster. A trusted cloud service provider usually handles the latter.

Device protections

State-of-the-art medical institutions are brimming with heart monitors, temperature sensors, security cameras, and other interconnected devices that comprise the Internet of Medical Things. Their limited hardware and software make such devices easy to compromise

Regularly monitoring usage, segmenting networks IoMT devices connect to, and applying updates as soon as they appear is crucial for maintaining their security.

Staff training

Healthcare professionals have a working relationship with advanced technology but might not be aware of all associated cyber risks. Investing in regular training that equips medical staff to recognize and handle such risks reduces the impact of human error and greatly strengthens the institution’s cybersecurity posture.


Accurate, timely, and extensive data lets healthcare professionals make informed diagnoses and save lives. As we move towards a world where data-driven decision-making and AI implementation in healthcare gain traction, the need to protect the increasing amounts of generated medical data becomes salient. Healthcare professionals who embrace this reality and continually improve their data protection practices become more trustworthy and desirable.