In today’s digital age, running a veterinary practice requires some form of integration with technology that allows for the storage of electronic health records (EHRs) such as medical histories of pets and livestock they deal with on a daily basis, diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions and other health-related information. The EHRs help to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery by enabling easy access, sharing and analysis of data among veterinary practitioners, their clients and stakeholders.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting veterinary practices, exploiting vulnerabilities in EHR systems to gain access to valuable data, including personal and financial information. In light of these threats, it’s crucial for veterinary practices to implement robust security measures to safeguard their EHRs by implementing security measures that address cybersecurity risks posed by cybercriminals. In this article, we will explore what electronic health records are, the best practices for securing them, and some of the challenges veterinary practices encounter when implementing cybersecurity measures for electronic health records.
What are Electronic Health Records in Veterinary Practices?
By definition, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in veterinary practices refer to the digital storage of pet or animal health-related information, including medical history, diagnoses, treatments, and prescriptions. EHRs are designed to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery by providing easy access to information for veterinary practitioners, pet owners, and stakeholders.
With EHRs, veterinary practices can streamline their record-keeping processes, reduce paperwork, and enhance communication among staff members. Additionally, EHRs enable veterinarians to quickly access critical health information, improving diagnosis and treatment outcomes.
EHRs in veterinary practices are similar to those used in human healthcare, but they are tailored specifically to the needs of veterinarians and their patients. They are designed to comply with various laws and regulations related to the storage and sharing of patient data.
Cybersecurity Measures for Electronic Health Records
As shown above, EHRs play a vital role in the day-to-day running of veterinary practices. Unfortunately, in the past few years, they have become a prime target for cybercriminals due to the sensitive nature of the information they contain. EHRs often contain highly valuable data, including the personal and financial information of pet owners, as well as the health information of their pets. This information can be used for various malicious purposes, such as identity theft, financial fraud, and targeted attacks.
Additionally, many veterinary practices use outdated or insecure software to manage their EHRs, which makes them vulnerable to attacks. Cybercriminals are known to exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to EHRs and steal sensitive data. For example, they may use malware to infect a veterinary practice’s computer network and steal login credentials or install ransomware to encrypt EHRs and demand payment for their release.
To help minimize the risks of EHRs being attacked by cybercriminals, practice owners should consider implementing some of the best practices listed below:-
1. Access Control: Limit access to EHRs to authorized personnel only. This includes implementing secure login credentials such as passwords and two-factor authentication, restricting user permissions based on their roles, and regularly reviewing and updating access privileges. Additionally, ensure that employees understand the importance of keeping their login credentials confidential and not sharing them with anyone.
If your software is cloud-based you can request the software vendor put in location log in limits. Preventing login’s from foreign countries. You can also request 2FA (Two form Factor Authentication) to also help prevent unauthorized users from accessing your hospital’s records.
2. Data Encryption: Encrypting EHR data ensures that it is protected and unreadable to unauthorized individuals who may intercept it during transmission or storage. Implement industry-standard encryption protocols such as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to safeguard data both in transit and at rest.
3. Backups: Regularly backing up EHR data helps to ensure its availability and integrity in case of system failure or data loss due to cyber-attacks. Conduct periodic data backups to secure offsite locations, such as the cloud, and test backup and recovery procedures to ensure that they are functioning correctly.
4. Employee Training: Train employees on cybersecurity best practices, including safe browsing habits, avoiding phishing attacks, identifying suspicious emails, and understanding the risks associated with using personal devices to access EHRs. Conduct regular training sessions to keep employees informed about new threats and trends in cybersecurity.
5. Software Updates: Regularly update EHR software to address known vulnerabilities and patch any security holes. It’s essential to work with a reputable vendor that regularly updates and maintains their software to ensure optimal security.
6. Regular Audits: Regularly audit EHR systems to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that security measures are effective. This can include penetration testing, vulnerability scans, and security assessments.
By implementing the above best practices, you will be able to secure the electronic health records of your veterinary practice, protect sensitive patient data, and reduce the risk of cyber attacks. It is also important to stay up to date with the latest cybersecurity threats and technologies to ensure that you are not caught off-guard despite implementing all the measures listed above. Finally, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies and to continually review and improve your security measures.