When it comes to managing your health, it’s wise to be proactive and get routine testing, vaccinations and physicals done to take care of issues before they turn into bigger health problems down the road.

The same goes for risk – ignoring warning signs of a risk event is an unhealthy habit that can have long-lasting implications for the business.

Aside from patient safety and staff burnout, data breaches are one of the biggest risks in healthcare today. BakerHostetler’s latest Data Security Incident Response Report suggests healthcare tops all industries affected by data breaches (25% of all breach events occur within the industry). Hospitals, insurance companies, clinics, and other industry participants house patient records that are goldmines for hackers, containing every piece of information a criminal would need to steal someone’s identity. This makes healthcare institutions a prime target for cybersecurity schemes. If information security is compromised, brand reputation and patient care could be put at risk, and companies could be held liable for damages, on top of facing financial losses.

The potential impact of a cybersecurity risk event

With recent spear-fishing attempts, ransomware situations and other cybersecurity schemes becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, it’s no wonder the number of breached healthcare records has grown from 4.7 million to 11.5 million over the last two years.

Although the number of data breach events may be on the decline – hitting a three-year low of 290 in 2018 – all it takes is one situation to reap negative repercussions. If thousands of records are affected during one incident, the risk impact is still too big to ignore. One data breach could leave hospitals with tens of thousands of dollars in HIPAA fines per affected patient. In fact, the total cost of breaches climbed to $4.7 billion in 2018, up from $1.8 billion a year earlier.

It’s time for the healthcare industry to take its own advice when it comes to risk management. Just like a healthy lifestyle can limit the risk of disease later on in life, the right approach to risk management – one that regularly monitors key vulnerabilities and has a plan for addressing each potential risk event – can lower the chances of data breaches and other risks down the road.

Risk management tech as the antidote

The enterprise-wide visibility enabled by integrated risk management (IRM) technology protects precious patient data by equipping risk managers with the ability to identify and track all risks across the organization, including cybersecurity threats. Through this holistic view of organizational risk, risk managers can understand how each vulnerability relates to each other, and what the potential, collective impact on the organization would be should an event occur. From there, the best plan can be put in place to mitigate the risk from happening in the first place — or limit the impact if it does.

One of the biggest advantages of IRM is governance. Organizations need a plan for how every risk will be addressed and managed. Risk registers, mitigation processes and procedures all come as part of an IRM platform and can help a company identify what the appropriate response and procedure should be if a cybersecurity event occurs. Firewalls, routine software updates, anti-virus protection and more are all great tactical security elements to implement and fortify defenses on the frontlines, but truly effective cybersecurity risk management goes a step further to not only limit exposure, but also make sure that everyone is prepared to handle the widespread impacts of an event should a security mechanism fail.

Risk management is about more than just prevention. It’s also about effectively handling risk that does happen. Whether it’s cybersecurity, patient care, employee safety or another critical issue, understanding the risk make-up of the organization, planning how to handle threats well before a situation occurs, and having standards and processes in place to reduce risk impact, are all steps that need to be a part of every organization’s risk strategy.

Learn more about the key issues and risk in the healthcare industry today in our report with Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, the 2019 Annual Patient Safety & Quality Industry Outlook.

For more on how IRM technology can help healthcare organizations, please visit here.