Among the large variety of industries we currently work with and have worked with in the past, we have helped several dental practices set up proper cybersecurity measures and smooth IT operations. In our years of practice, we've learned a few essential tips for the dental industry that we think you will find helpful. Like any medical clinic, dental practices are subject to HIPAA compliance, which presents an extra layer of needed cybersecurity to protect sensitive data, such as patient records. In working with dental practices and other medical clinics, our team at PK Tech has become experts in HIPAA compliance related to IT infrastructure.
Here are our top 5 Cybersecurity Tips for Dental Practices:
1. Keep Your Practice's Software Updated
We've found that it's common for practices to use older versions of practice management software. This can happen for one or more of several reasons: (1) The practice isn't aware newer versions exist, (2) The practice doesn't want to learn the latest version, (3) The practice’s computers don't meet the system requirements, or (4) The practice stopped paying for support and is not entitled to the current version.
In many cases, it's an unnecessary risk to run unsupported and older versions of software as newer versions likely contain fixes for security flaws. If you're not paying for support or if your computers do not meet the modern version's system requirements, this is also a high risk position to be in. Keep support current on critical software programs and replace your computers at least every five years.
2. Avoid Sharing Client Information Over Unsecure Methods
Whenever sharing sensitive information (think specifically information subject to HIPAA regulations), you should be communicating over encrypted email.
Especially in the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, where some appointments are taking place over video conferencing (Zoom, etc.), it's important to remember that many of these platforms are not necessarily HIPAA compliant.
Have an outbound encrypted email platform, and if you're using Zoom, use the HIPAA friendly version.
3. Perform Regular Cybersecurity Training
One of the most significant cybersecurity risks in any business or practice is, unfortunately, its own employees. While not on purpose, employees may unknowingly click a malicious link or download a malicious file. By requiring employees to participate in cybersecurity training regularly, you can proactively teach employees to recognize warning signs and ask for help when they're unsure. This is one of the best cybersecurity defenses for your practice. To start, send your staff the following blogs: 10 Shocking Phishing Facts, Is it a phishing attempt? Ask these two questions.
4. Keep Your Windows Computers Up-to-Date
We meet many prospective clients who have been continually pressing snooze on computer updates or having them disabled altogether. Understand that when it comes to your dental practice, keeping your Windows computers up-to-date is vital to network security and reducing cybersecurity threats.
If your computers prompt you to update, you likely have unmanaged updates, and you're not having an IT Company vet them. It would be best if you worked with an IT Company that manages your Windows Updates, as Microsoft has pushed several bad updates this year that have caused downtime and required IT intervention to repair. Not updating isn't an option either, as HIPAA and cybersecurity insurance policies explicitly require you to apply security patches routinely.
5. Block Staff From Accessing Unproductive and Malicious Websites
While you may trust your employees implicitly, it can help to implement security measures to protect your practice just in case. Sometimes websites are visited with good intentions, but end up being malicious websites. If accessed from a computer within your network, these actions put the entire practice at risk. Based on our experience, we recommend simply blocking staff access to unproductive and malicious websites. Work with an IT Company that provides both category and country blocking technology. Better safe than sorry.
PK Tech Takeaways
One of the best ways to keep your practice HIPAA-compliant is by hiring a quality IT team to help your practice implement preventative cybersecurity measures. The best cybersecurity plan is a prevention plan.
If you have questions about your current IT security for your dental practice, PK Tech is here to help. Contact us here.