3 steps to help healthcare contact centers stay ahead of hackers

Sept. 26, 2017
Perry Price CEO/President and Co-founder,
Revation Systems

Technology continues to see explosive growth, and as a result, healthcare contact centers are experiencing significant technological improvements. Just a few years ago, patients had no other option but to dial in to a clinic and wait on hold to schedule an appointment. Now, unified communications technology is permeating healthcare contact centers, and both patients and contact center agents are experiencing the convenience and flexibility of communicating via phone, chat, SMS, text, and video.

However, the trend toward unified communications will increase the threat of security breaches. Healthcare contact centers can stay ahead of hackers and keep sensitive data protected by following these three steps: Increase network security, ensure up-to-date and encrypted security systems, and establish policies and procedures for contact center agents.

Increase network security

Network security, as defined by Gartner, are measures (including firewalls) taken to protect a communications pathway from unauthorized access to, and accidental or willful interference of, regular operations. Healthcare contact center agents that use a unified communications solution to interact with patients through channels that do not include voice or audio (SMS, text, chat) experience a greater need for tighter network security as such data often includes private health information (PHI).

As digital transformation continues to shape healthcare contact center communications, more connected devices are entering the healthcare arena than ever before. According to the Contact Centers Outlook 2017 report by JLL Research, non-voice channel revenues for contact centers in the United States have nearly doubled since 2011, growing 91%. Though using chat or text to schedule appointments provides great convenience to patients, increased network security must remain top-of-mind for contact centers operating on such platforms to protect sensitive data.

Ensure up-to-date and encrypted systems

In addition to increasing network security, keeping security systems updated and encrypting all data from end-to-end is another key factor in protecting patient data. Encryption, which NICCS defines as the process of converting data into a form that cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people (e.g. plaintext into ciphertext), is essential to keeping PHI secure in the healthcare industry.

However, encryption alone is not enough. End-to-end encryption, meaning that sent data can only be accessed by the sender and receiver, is now necessary to truly ensure PHI is secure. To combat security threats, healthcare contact centers must be sure to encrypt all data from cradle to grave, in-transit and at-rest. This high level of encryption helps healthcare organizations adhere to HIPAA/HITRUST/HITECH compliance, as well.

Along with end-to-end encryption, contact centers need to keep network security up-to-date to address growing concerns regarding the network’s ability to support the large number of connected devices (IoT) that exist in our healthcare industry today. In fact, Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017. With an increasing number of connected devices being used in healthcare communications between patients and their providers, it is essential that organizations keep network security systems up-to-date and encrypted to the utmost degree to block all doors that could be left open to potential hackers.

Security: It begins and ends with policies and procedures

Perhaps the most important aspect of network security and encryption for healthcare organizations to remember is that it begins with the implementation of stricter policies and procedures for healthcare contact center agents. Where increased security measures for networks and end-to-end encryption significantly improve the security of sensitive data flowing through contact centers, no solution will truly be effective unless the contact center has implemented and enforced strong policies and procedures inside the walls of the organization.

Healthcare contact center agents and staff must be properly trained before communicating with patients. For example, it is crucial for agents to always remain aware of who has access to PHI or other sensitive data and when. Additionally, contact center management must tighten the grip on which supervisors, managers or agents have access to such sensitive data to ensure that appropriate security measures are followed.

In addition to proper training for agents and staff, the right types of policies must be in place within an organization to keep data secure. Such policies may include prohibiting agents to write any sensitive data down on paper, and instead using a whiteboard to record information as any PHI can easily be erased and disposed of. By implementing stricter policies in house, healthcare contact centers can remain compliant, while still providing excellent customer service to patients.

As the number of connected devices in the healthcare industry continues to grow, healthcare contact centers need to strengthen their network security and level of encryption. Through proper implementation of increased security, up-to-date systems and stricter policies and procedures, the future of healthcare contact centers remains secure.

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