How to Tackle the Top Five Healthcare Information Security Challenges

Healthcare information security is one of the leading priorities in the healthcare sector today—and for good reason. Healthcare organizations are primary targets for attacks with the amount of sensitive data they protect. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 70 percent of breaches targeted demographic or financial information rather than medical information only.

With increased reliance on digital and electronic health records, healthcare organizations must continue to pursue strategies and programs that protect sensitive information across each of their environments. One of the most effective ways to secure sensitive information is through identity governance and administration (IGA) programs.

Unfortunately, when accounts are not managed or governed properly, they can be more easily compromised and potentially lead to an increase in costly data breaches for the health system. In fact, according to the 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report by the Ponemon Institute, data breaches across healthcare organizations cost more than $6.45 million on average, higher than any other industry.

What Are Healthcare Organizations Up Against Today?

Organizations in the healthcare sector face a number of critical identity governance challenges that they must address to make their environments more secure and to protect sensitive health information. Manual provisioning processes, insufficient visibility into existing account access, and the lack of automation significantly contribute to these challenges, magnifying the time and resources required to oversee and manage user access.

Because many healthcare organizations still lack a centralized process to manage and audit user accounts, they often have very little visibility into the actual access levels users possess. According to a recent study, only 53 percent of organizations today are confident in the effectiveness of their identity and access management (IAM) programs.

With only half of all organizations today confident in their IGA programs, healthcare providers face an uphill climb to ensure their identity and access management is effective across their environments. Here are five of the top access-related challenges that health systems encounter today:

1) Effectively creating and maintaining access for a diverse, mobile, contingent, and rotating workforce.

With varying levels of access required for multiple user types, healthcare security professionals must ensure they intelligently create, monitor, manage, and remove access in a timely manner for user accounts. This also means securely and efficiently enabling appropriate levels of access across an expansive network of health systems to enable users to effectively perform their jobs.

2) Addressing the ongoing complexity and granularity of user roles across titles, departments, and applications.

In addition to managing a mobile, diverse workforce, healthcare organizations must oversee a complex network of health system applications and devices, and ensure their identity governance programs address the specialization and granularity of user roles across departments, titles, and user types. Health systems should operate with the policy of least privilege, while still providing users enough access to effectively perform their critical roles within the healthcare environment.

3) Increasing time and resource requirements for provisioning.

The complexity and changing nature of the healthcare workforce has contributed significantly to the time and resources required for user provisioning within health systems today. These growing demands continue to put strain on IT healthcare teams to keep up with provisioning and deprovisioning accounts, and ensuring appropriate levels of access are given to the right users.

4) Ensuring patient privacy and providing frictionless access to personal health information.

With increasing industry and government mandates around electronic health records and patient data, health organizations must ensure they are continuously storing health information securely to meet regulatory compliance.

This includes monitoring and prioritizing access risks, giving appropriate access levels to healthcare staff and patients, and uncovering hidden access levels within the organization. Healthcare organizations must also practice the policy of least privilege access so only those users that need access to patient data receive it the moment they need it.

5) Managing brand reputation, access risks, and trust.

Healthcare organizations today know the value of keeping personal health information secure. And they also know the high cost that a data breach can have on their organization—both in terms of monetary costs and loss of brand reputation. Ensuring patients and users can trust that their health information is secure and have solid, reliable identity governance programs to keep sensitive data safe is essential for healthcare organizations today.


The reality is that with so many systems and so many access privileges to manage, it is extremely difficult for healthcare organizations to understand what access employees and non-employees need, and then control that access without the right identity governance programs. According to the Identity and Access Management Report, more than 70 percent of users have more access privileges than required for their job.

When healthcare users have more access than they need, there is an increased opportunity to target users with elevated access levels resulting in increased risk. And the problem only magnifies with contingent workers or accounts that are orphaned. This risk becomes even greater if excess privileges are unused because nefarious access can go undetected. Combined together, these factors make it very difficult to limit risk, especially as high numbers of employees and non-employees join or leave health organizations.

Leading-Edge Identity Governance for Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations have unique needs and requirements when it comes to identity governance. And Core Security understands this. Healthcare systems require intelligent solutions to address their expansive networks, systems, and applications. They need to automate provisioning across a disparate workforce. And they need to secure critical healthcare data and information, while demonstrating ongoing regulatory compliance.

Core Security provides a portfolio of identity governance solutions to organizations across the healthcare sector, enabling them to improve security, boost efficiencies, and ensure ongoing compliance. Our solutions empower health organizations to ensure the right access is given to the right people at the right time. And that not only improves overall health information security, it also ensures patients receive the highest quality of care possible.

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