Healthcare is a vital industry, impacting economies around the world. The industry generates billions of dollars in sales and is rapidly evolving by integrating technology into research, administration and service delivery. As a consequence, enormous amounts of data and information are generated, most of it sensitive and private - such as, medical records, employee information, financial and research data. This makes the healthcare sector vulnerable to cybercrime.

Keeping the information secure is a prime imperative for healthcare industry players, and a huge responsibility to patients, employees, customers and other stakeholders. Organisations must budget adequately - both monetarily and in terms of resources – to ensure effective information security management.

Information Security Management is critical to the health and progress of the healthcare industry and the alternative can be devastating. Cybercriminals can tarnish healthcare organisations’ brands, bring down companies and unleash enormous harm on patients and stakeholders. The effects of cybercrime in healthcare can take years to overcome.

Healthcare players face challenges unique to their industry:

Threat of Insiders

One of the biggest threats to the industry is not from a hacker, but from someone inside the organization such as an employee or contractor who is trusted to handle sensitive information within the company based on their position. Dealing with malicious, disgruntled or ignorant insiders is much more difficult than dealing with outsiders.

Valuable Patient Information

Patient data is abundant in the healthcare industry. Patient data is collected from employees, clinical patients and donors. Patient health information is very valuable because the records tell a person's entire life history as well as transactional history. Breach of confidentiality of such data potentially exposes the patient as well as the company to health, financial and reputational risk.

Supply Chain Security

Several business processes that require healthcare companies to share confidential information with third parties make them vulnerable to information security breaches. Healthcare supply chains are facing increased number of licensing deals and collaborations, increased amounts of outsourcing of manufacturing and clinical trials to third parties, as well as increased usage of social media and other technologies for information exchange and communication - all activities leaving them vulnerable to breaches and cybercrime.

IP Protection

Nothing is more valuable to a healthcare company than the formula of its new drugs. The value of stealing a potentially successful drug design, particularly one not protected yet, is huge. IP theft offers the unethical competitor the opportunity to bypass the risk and cost of R&D and take a short cut to marketing a profitable drug. With a global manufacturing base and worldwide markets, exploitation of stolen healthcare industry information is straightforward - more so than in industries where complex, technologically intensive manufacturing processes reduce the pool of partners in a position to exploit stolen IP.

Compliance Regulations

National and international regulations have become active to provide the first line of defence against security threats, making compliance to voluntary standards, as well as government mandates, a cornerstone. Several countries have come up with regulations. Compliance to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) in the US is a huge factor for healthcare players in that country. Similar is the case with compliance to EU regulations in Europe. South Asian facilities from India need to follow National Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Compliance Monitoring Authority, Department of Science and Technology. Since many healthcare companies span multiple borders, they should also abide by national regulations within each operating region.

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