The Importance of Data Security in Your Senior Living Community

In this data-driven age, the ability to safeguard personal information and digital business assets is critical. This is true across the business environment in general and no less so in the world of senior housing.

In fact, senior housing may be a under a special obligation to consider the needs of data security. Healthcare regulations, privacy laws and the use of personally identifiable information on residents all combine to make data security a high priority for senior housing.

Regulatory compliance is an increasingly important issue in all aspects of health care, including senior living. With data security breaches making headlines on a regular basis, state agencies and the Federal government are pushing for new ways to ensure that personal information is kept secure. It is imperative that senior living executives understand the regulatory landscape and assess their risks accordingly.

The changing insurance landscape likewise is bringing data security to the fore as an issue in senior housing. The U.S. market for cyber coverage already stands at about $1 billion in premiums. As cyber vulnerability becomes an ever more pressing issue, especially in the face of numerous high-profile incidents in the retail sector, carriers have implemented rate hikes across diverse industries, including healthcare.

In general, senior housing faces many of the same threats as other industry sectors. Spyware, malware, Trojan horses, ransomware – these all are the stock in trade of bad actors seeking to compromise data security today. While the threats may persist across many types of businesses, healthcare has proven especially vulnerable.

One high-profile case involved health insurer Anthem. A data breach exposed some 79 million customer records, leaving the company to face a “prohibitively expensive” renewal rate, Reuters reports. To secure $100 million in coverage, the company had to agree to pay the first $25 million in costs incurred by future attacks. Likewise, consider the February 2016 attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. The hospital paid about $17,000 to hackers who had disabled its systems.

Given the breadth of possible vulnerabilities, it is important that senior housing executives take a number of proactive steps in order to ensure that personal information, health data and other valuable records are kept safe. They must assess the risk, throughout the organization, and must invest in appropriate systems and safeguards. Very often this will mean bringing in the services of a skilled consultant, in some cases an IT expert who works on site, in order to ensure that the necessary level of skill has been brought to bear on the problem.

Where to begin? Given the sweeping nature of cyber threat as it exists, many will find that the starting point lies within. A great number of data breaches occur because an organization’s staff has not been properly trained in the basic safeguards. Managing software, bypassing suspicious web sites, getting rid of dangerous emails before they can do any damage – these all are fundamental practices that must be taught and reinforced. While data security will take many forms, addressing the human element is an important first step.

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