With data breaches and cyberattacks increasing across the healthcare industry, ensuring staff are trained in best practices for digital applications has never been more critical. Healthcare organizations are particularly at risk because of the sensitive nature of the information they deal with, such as patient information, social security details, contact information, and more.

Any breach can have severe consequences and can be very damaging to your reputation and to the patients themselves. In addition, there are regulatory consequences to consider too, such as fines for non-compliance. Most notably, this includes The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This federal law created national standards in the US to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without consent.

This makes security awareness training for all staff essential for healthcare organizations. Good training can help to minimize risk and build best practices throughout the workforce.

The Extent of the Problem

The need for improved security awareness training is exacerbated by a number or eye-opening statistics that have come to light in recent years. For example, a shocking 87% of healthcare workers admit to having sent sensitive information via a non-secure email.

Similarly, HIPAA recorded a total of 18 security breaches in 2009. This rose to 329 by 2016 (exposing the health details of more than 16 million people in the US). By 2021, this had risen further to 713 major breaches, a 7.5% increase from the previous year.

As you can see, the need to act is clear.

How Can Healthcare Organizations Train Staff?

Organizations need to do more to train staff, especially because of the recent reassessment of compliance standards. Under HIPAA, training is mandatory and is key to protecting patient data. Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in severe fines, so it is very important to try and close any compliance gap that may exist.

Security awareness training should therefore be engaging to maximize its potential. Training should be regular and ideally broken down into smaller, more digestible chunks. Try and immerse staff in training using interactive elements rather than just relying on a simple transfer of information.

As mentioned, training should be ongoing, not just a box-ticking exercise, and as accessible as possible. Make materials readily available and organize training to minimize disruption to both work and private lives.

The training should also be implemented using tools like phishing simulations to improve staff’s ability to spot scams and correctly deal with threats. Scammers are going to increasingly sophisticated lengths to make their phishing emails seem genuine, so staff will need to keep their eye on and be aware of the latest developments.

Ongoing Analysis and Effective Reporting

Of course, you can only ensure security awareness training is effective if you monitor the results. So try to incorporate a reporting tool into the training program and target any areas of weakness in your organization as quickly as possible.

Cybersecurity will be an increasingly important part of any healthcare organization’s training moving forward, so it’s a good idea to try and establish good practices as soon as possible.