Overcoming Cybersecurity Challenges in the NEMT Industry
Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers handle sensitive patient information, ranging from medical records to billing information.
Unfortunately, data breaches in the healthcare industry are far too common. In the first half of 2023, a record 40 million people were affected by breaches of healthcare databases, according to a report by Critical Insights.
A breach in cybersecurity could not only jeopardize patient trust but also expose providers to substantial legal penalties under laws like HIPAA in the United States.
In a report by IBM Security, the average cost of healthcare data breaches is almost $11 million.
While there haven’t been any significant NEMT data breaches reported, it’s become more important than ever to ensure the information and privacy of clients and partners are adequately secured.
In this article, we’ll explore NEMT providers’ cybersecurity challenges and examine various ways to overcome them.
Common Cybersecurity Challenges in NEMT
The migration from traditional, paperwork-heavy operations to modern, software-driven solutions has significantly redefined NEMT services.
While this transition offers numerous advantages, like streamlined operations and easier data management, it presents new cybersecurity challenges.
Below are some of the most common issues NEMT providers should know about.
The Threat of Data Breaches
NEMT operations are patient-centric, handling sensitive information like medical histories, billing data, and travel schedules.
If this data isn’t adequately protected, the risk of a data breach rises significantly.
How It Happens
Data breaches typically occur due to:
- Inadequate encryption protocols
- Poorly managed access controls
- Outdated or unpatched software
Your drivers, coordinators, and medical staff may access your systems remotely.
This mobile workforce, while efficient, can become a cybersecurity liability if their devices are compromised, giving hackers an easy gateway to your network.
How It Happens
Common mistakes include:
- Using public Wi-Fi networks to access company systems
- Not having up-to-date antivirus or security software on mobile devices
- Poor password practices, like using the same password across different platforms
Social Engineering and Phishing
Social engineering attacks, such as phishing, manipulate employees into divulging sensitive information.
Your employees aren’t cyber security experts even if they’ve been adequately trained. With the detailed and personal nature in which some of these attacks are presented, they can be easy to fall for.
How It Happens
Typical scenarios involve:
- Receiving an email pretending to be from a trusted colleague or manager, asking for sensitive information.
- Phone calls or messages claiming to be from IT support, asking to verify credentials.
Ransomware attacks lock you out of your systems and data, crippling operations and potentially endangering patient care.
These attacks are often time-sensitive and can have far-reaching consequences for NEMT providers.
How It Happens
- Clicking on a malicious email attachment
- Visiting compromised websites
- Downloading unverified software
Strategies to Overcome Cybersecurity Challenges in NEMT
While identifying risks is crucial to preventing cyber-attacks, implementing effective countermeasures is just as important.
Here, we’ve covered several helpful solutions to protect your business and customers against some of the most pressing cybersecurity challenges in NEMT.
Implement Robust Encryption for Patient Data
The first step towards effective data encryption is to find and record every location where patient data is stored. Once that list is established, use it to find any vulnerabilities from outside attacks and ensure they are appropriately protected.
From there, you need to choose the proper encryption protocol.
Encryption standards such as AES-256 for data-at-rest and SSL/TLS for data-in-transit should provide the necessary security.
Finally, run frequent tests on your encryption to ensure it’s working as intended and that each area is adequately protected.
Secure Your Mobile Workforce
NEMT software is advantageous as it can be used from anywhere, but it also means mobile devices such as phones and tablets become easy targets for cyber-attacks.
Establishing a formal remote work policy explicitly outlining security expectations is a solid first step. Every employee should be mandated to read it thoroughly and understand their responsibility in protecting themselves, your company, and your clients from cyber-attacks.
All employees who use a remote device should always connect to your system using a secure VPN. Doing so can help eliminate unnecessary risks and reinforce proper security protocols.
It’s also a good idea to regularly install software updates to mobile devices and any security applications used on those devices.
Android and iOS continuously update their software for expanded security measures. Ensuring all employees’ devices have the latest antivirus and protective software can help protect access to private data.
Strengthen Employee Training and Awareness
One of the easiest ways to address cybersecurity in your business is to ensure your employees are properly trained on what to look for and how to avoid attacks.
Taking time to examine your status by performing a needs assessment can help you understand where your team’s cybersecurity knowledge gaps are.
From there, create a training program with a curriculum covering essential cybersecurity topics relevant to the healthcare and NEMT industries.
Cybersecurity training shouldn’t just be a one-time event but a consistent training program. Conducting regular workshops and tests can help your team stay up to date on the latest trends and potential threats.
While it may seem simple, proper and consistent cybersecurity training can help prevent your employees from becoming easy cyber-attack targets.
Implement Regular Security Audits and Risk Assessments
Like employee training, auditing your security systems consistently is essential for guarding against data breaches.
Scheduling regular security audits keeps your business on the offensive, actively searching for areas vulnerable to attack. Waiting to find weaknesses in your system after they’ve been attacked is too costly of a risk.
If you’re unsure where to begin assessing your cybersecurity, one of the best things you can do is to consult with an expert—particularly someone familiar with the healthcare and NEMT industries.
The right consultant can take a comprehensive look at your systems and help pinpoint any weak spots you may need to address.
Finally, develop an easy-to-follow action plan to address and secure any vulnerabilities within your system quickly.
Your Next Step for Secure NEMT Operations
While there are several ways to secure your operations against cyber-attacks, selecting the right NEMT software can also be helpful.
Tobi provides an end-to-end solution for secure, efficient, non-emergency medical transportation software that includes a robust offering of features, some specifically designed to safeguard patient data and streamline operations.
With data security features like TLS 1.2 data encryption and a SOC2-compliant data center, Tobi can help guard against potential cybersecurity threats and keep your operation compliant.
Ready to secure your NEMT operations? Take Tobi for a test drive with a 30-day free trial.