2020 was quite the year. While the pandemic slowed operations across many industries, one group that didn’t take a break: cyberattackers. Breaches, identity theft and ransomware attacks showed no signs of a stopping, capitalizing on gaps in security due to sudden shifts to remote work, software vulnerabilities and poor security hygiene. 

Healthcare data remains a prime target, with private health information (PHI) the ultimate prize. Cyberattacks in the industry (along with manufacturing and energy) doubled in 2020, focusing on businesses tied to COVID-19 response efforts, such as hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and energy companies responsible for the COVID-19 supply chain. Collectively, it is estimated that approximately 26 million patient records were exposed to unauthorized parties in the United States in 2020, with 24.1 million as a result of healthcare cyber attacks.

With health records such a hot commodity, how do organizations instill confidence among customers that data won’t be compromised? 

When it comes to data privacy, trust reigns supreme. Here are four best practices to go well beyond HIPAA compliance, demonstrating a deep commitment to customers that information security is a top priority.

  • Integrate a privacy-first approach.

Maintaining compliance with regulatory frameworks, while critically important, isn’t a full-proof approach to data privacy. A Privacy by Design (PbD) approach is defined as designing privacy into all your business processes so that personally identifiable information (PII) is protected by default. This approach is typically applied to three parts of operations: IT systems, accountable business practices and physical, networked infrastructure. Check out our FAQ for details on how to achieve effective PbD programs, including auditing existing systems.

  • Identify strengths — and weaknesses.

Taking risk management and data privacy seriously requires routine assessments of cybersecurity controls to identify potential gaps. Integrating vulnerability scanning into GRC practices is a key element of robust cybersecurity, helping to identify weaknesses across networks, information systems and applications. Integrate new threats or updated regulations into your compliance program, improving your organization’s security posture as the risk environment evolves. 

  • Really get to know your third parties.

Valuable relationships with third parties, whether suppliers, manufacturers, resellers or other partners, introduce their own regulatory and operational risk. Strong vendor risk management reduces the risk to your organization, making you a more attractive partner to other businesses and helping to build customer trust. By streamlining onboarding processes and customizing vendor questionnaires, you can generate risk scores to assess and compare vendors and trigger workflows based on questionnaire responses.

  • Set the security bar.

Threat modeling and risk management in healthcare is complex due to the sensitive nature of the data, tight regulations and being a constant target of cyberattacks. Turn risk management and compliance into a differentiator by making all GRC activities more streamlined, efficient and impactful — putting a stake in the ground to employees, customers and third-party partners that you’re serious about information security. 

One company doing just that is Reciprocity client Omada Health. Reliant on the PHI customers and members provide to drive its chronic-care solutions, Omada Health knows that ensuring data is private and secure requires more than just check-the-box compliance. Aside from using Reciprocity’s integrated and automated ZenGRC platform to enable more streamlined, efficient and impactful processes to pass third-party attestations and customer audits without exceptions, the company leveraged ZenGRC’s surveys and scoring mechanism to design its NODIRT complex threat model to help improve information security across the entire industry. 

By ramping up your information security practices, you can more confidently manage risk, better protect customer data, boost confidence with third-party relationships and gain greater control and visibility across operations. Ultimately, you can transform risk management and compliance from a cost center into a true competitive differentiator. 

Read our case study Driving Greater Information Security in Digital Healthcare to learn all the details on how Reciprocity is helping Omada Health pave the way for a more secure industry.