Advances in technology continue to revolutionize all industries, including dental practices. In the beginning of the computer age, computers were only used for billing and recordkeeping in these offices. Now, almost every aspect of running a dental practice has gone digital, including digital radiography, scheduling, electronic health records, and even digital dentistry. The amount of data stored in digital systems is ever-increasing, which has spurred a continual rise in cyber attacks. Hackers have gotten more sophisticated, which means a simple firewall and antivirus software are no longer enough to protect your practice’s network and patient data from breaches. The good news is, though, there are additional steps you can take to drastically improve dental practice cybersecurity to protect your patients and your practice.
Why Is Dental Practice Cybersecurity Necessary?
Dental practices keep records of sensitive patient information that, in accordance with HIPAA, must be protected. Financial records and payment processes are also online, which make for especially appealing targets for hackers. According to Small Business Trends, small businesses such as dental practices are the targets of 43 percent of cyber attacks. Within six months of a cyber attack, nearly 60 percent of small companies will go out of business. This is why it is vital that dental practices have cybersecurity measures in place to protect sensitive information and to keep their practices operational.
Many dental practices think that all they need to do to protect themselves from cyber attacks is install a firewall and antivirus software. This used to be enough to deter most hackers from breaching dental practice systems. However, as technology has continued to advance, so has the sophistication of cyber attacks, and hackers have found ways around these simple cybersecurity measures. This means dental practices must not only update their systems to keep up with current digital demands, but they must also update their cybersecurity practices to protect their digital systems from threats.
Cybersecurity Measures to Protect Your Dental Practice from Cyber Attacks
To avoid being one of the many health care practices across the country affected by ransomware and malware attacks, your dental practice needs to implement cybersecurity measures to reduce exposure and threat risk. While it is true that no system can ever be 100 percent secure, there are some basic precautions that will help protect your dental practice and your patients. These precautions range from educating employees to investing in security software, and they can significantly reduce the risk of a cyber attack.
Most cyber attacks infiltrate a system by taking advantage of human trust. When staff mistakenly mishandle documents, fail to lock computers, or open suspicious links without thinking about the potential risk, the entire dental practice could be jeopardized. Many hackers will act as individuals or software downloads that promise to protect data so that they can gain access to your system.
If staff unwittingly open a malicious attachment, link, or download, your practice is opened up to a cyber attack that could steal sensitive information or lock you out of your own system. This is why it is important to have protocols in place that each staff member must follow at all times. Come up with a method of properly handling documents so that they cannot be accessed by unauthorized users. Set desktop-locking policies in place so that computers are not left vulnerable when not in use. Make sure employees know to only click on links and attachments from known sources to avoid letting malware into your system. Smart user behavior is the baseline for effective cybersecurity in dental practices.
Education and Training
Proper education and training are essential in order for cybersecurity protocols to be effective. Every employee needs to be made aware of the importance of following office protocols to protect the dental practice. Host meetings and training classes to teach all staff how to follow each protocol you put in place, from proper use and locking of computers to the dangers of opening suspicious emails or links. Encourage a culture of security by generating discussions and sharing articles about security risks and practices. Open conversation about cybersecurity will keep employees aware and more likely to follow security protocols.
Dental practices should all implement a response plan so that employees know exactly what steps to take following a cyber attack. This plan could outline who will contact the practice’s managed IT provider, when to alert patients of a possible breach, and how backups will be restored, just to name a few. Typically, you will want an IT company to set up a system for maintaining and restoring backups so that even if there is a breach your practice will not lose any of its information. It is always a good idea to formulate your response plan with your managed IT provider so that it is clear what they will handle and what your practice will be responsible for. An experienced IT company will know exactly what needs to be done to protect your dental practice and get it back to operational in the event of a cyber attack.
IT Security Solutions
Implementing IT security solutions will give you the proper foundation to prevent cyber attacks.
- There are a number of different types of security software available for businesses. Antivirus and antimalware software should be installed on all devices connected to your network.
- A VPN (virtual private network) increases security and helps keep your dental practice’s information private.
- Data encryption will protect the data your dental practice transmits to labs, insurance companies, and other practices.
- Regularly updating operating systems and software can patch holes in security to prevent breaches.
- A cloud backup system makes sure you will still have access to all your information in the event of theft or even natural disasters.
Improve Dental Practice Cybersecurity with Managed IT Services
If your dental practice experiences a data breach, the costs are numerous. Not only can your practice experience major legal consequences if patient information is compromised, but the costs to recover from a breach can be upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not only that, but your patients will likely lose trust in your practice and will seek dental care elsewhere. However, this can be avoided by implementing sound cybersecurity measures. With the proper cybersecurity solutions in place, almost all cyber attacks can be thwarted before they can affect your practice.
To get up to date with the proper dental practice cybersecurity, you need an IT company you can trust. Elemental Technology Solutions offers a complete suite of managed IT services for dental practices. Our team has decades of IT experience and can provide everything from IT help desk support to multi-layered security to data backup and disaster recovery. We provide customized solutions to boost your dental practice’s productivity and proactively combat security threats. To find out more about how our managed IT services can help your dental practice achieve its technology and security goals, reach out to us today at 1-888-499-5898 or online.