Physical therapy practices have come a long way in leveraging technology to streamline their operations, enhance patient care, and elevate their practice intelligence. However, as digital tools become increasingly integrated into healthcare, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. The current trend of ransomware and phishing attacks in healthcare will only get more aggressive, and rehab therapy practices are not immune.
Fittingly, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month in addition to National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM)—so what better time is there to discuss the significance of cybersecurity for physical therapy practices? So, let’s get this party started and explore why cybersecurity is paramount for today’s rehab therapy practices.
Practices must protect patients’ health information
Rehab therapy practices handle a vast amount of sensitive patient data, including medical histories, treatment plans, and personal information. With the introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996, patients’ protected health information (PHI) has taken center stage for cybersecurity experts. By now, most cybersecurity safeguards are built into the software programs various clinics use to protect this information from theft, unauthorized access, or other malicious activities. However, weaknesses in these systems persist.
For example, what if your practice uses multiple software services that are not integrated and don’t possess safeguards like single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), or a more robust federated login option? The resultant multiple sign-on hurdles place your practice at increased risk for breaches, which could lead to costly penalties and loss of trust from your patient base.
By using proper data and security features that adhere to the principles of Practice Experience Management (PXM), you can implement strong security operations that earn the trust and confidence of your patients, demonstrating your commitment to their privacy and well-being.
Practices need software with a SOC2 audit for assurance.
One way to gauge the effectiveness of your PXM platform’s cybersecurity efforts is through a SOC2 (Service Organization Controls 2) audit. SOC2 audits assess the controls your software provider has in place to secure sensitive information and verify their effectiveness. By achieving SOC2 compliance, rehab therapy practices and their digital software partners demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding patient data.
Completing a SOC2 audit builds a foundation of trust with regulators, fellow healthcare providers, and third-party payers—and while patients might not understand what SOC2 means, they’ll appreciate the diligence nonetheless. Using software that has yet to pass a SOC2 audit leaves a lot to be desired in the eyes of cybersecurity officials and could put your practice at risk of future cyber threats.
Practices require secure cloud services.
Most software is cloud-based these days—including many platforms that physical therapy practices use daily. They’re convenient to store and access patient data, but they could be a HIPAA risk without the right security measures. Choose software providers that prioritize cybersecurity to ensure your data remains safeguarded.
One of the best ways to gauge the security standard of your software provider is through the ISO 27001 certification. A PXM platform that offers practice intelligence security with this certification means they have implemented an information security management system that excels at “risk management, cyber-resilience, and operational excellence.”
Some additional features you should look for from software options include encryption, access controls, and regular security updates. A cloud-based PXM platform can also provide secure backups, protecting your data from unexpected events like natural disasters or hardware failures. Just remember to choose a reputable provider with a strong track record in healthcare data security.
Practices should audit their clinic’s cybersecurity.
Just as physical therapists are encouraged to spread awareness for NPTM, so should your clinic take a moment to audit your practice's cybersecurity efforts during Cybersecurity Month. Use this opportunity to educate your staff about the latest cybersecurity threats, best practices, and the protocols you have in place. Cybersecurity is an ongoing effort, and continuous education is the key to staying ahead of potential threats. Resources like this blog post can help you and your team be aware of incoming threats and what to do should a breach occur.
Practice intelligence security is not an option but a necessity for rehab therapy practices. It is a fundamental component of patient care and Practice Experience Management. By prioritizing cybersecurity and choosing partners who prioritize your security with SOC2 audits and secure cloud-based technology, you demonstrate your commitment to patient-centered care. While National Cybersecurity Awareness Month serves as a reminder to keep your practice's defenses strong and your staff informed, it is also a chance to ensure that your PXM platform is doing the same: protecting you and the patients you serve.