The Australian aged cared industry is currently worth over $22 billion – and is only getting larger, thanks to our rapidly ageing population. It’s this, along with the industry’s high volume of personal data, that has made aged care the third most targeted industry for cyber-attacks.
And this threat will only continue to evolve as the industry does. Increased adoption of digitisation mandated by the Royal Commission will further change cyberhealth needs and risks. Plus, The Australian Labor Party has also pledged a large amount of support to aged care should they win the upcoming federal election. A welcome offer on one hand, but one that will certainly shake up industry requirements.
In aged care, the risks of unsecured IT and poor Cyber Resilience are twofold. Not only does it create a large business risk due to the cost and damage of potential information leaks, but it also causes potential health risks due to the loss or delay of vital care recipient health data.
It’s a lot to think about and deal with for providers that are already working so hard to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. But in our increasingly digital world, IT health is directly related to the physical health of people in care. This also means that optimising IT can optimise aged care and health outcomes.
Aged care faces some unique cyber threats
The aged care industry is built on providing security, safety, and healthcare to those in need – and this should extend to not only their physical and emotional health, but cyber health as well. Unfortunately, while IT issues and data breaches happen relatively frequently, conflicting priorities often stop long-term solutions from being implemented.
These solutions themselves are not a ‘one size fits all’. There is not one type of cyber threat or data breach and therefore not one universal solution to stopping them. So, it’s important to understand where potential vulnerabilities lie before coming up with an appropriate way to manage and secure business IT systems.
Within aged care there are some unique aspects that can make providers more vulnerable:
Disparate, insecure systems
Data is critical for maintaining care to recipients. And when care is delivered across multiple specialists or facilities, the ability to share this becomes paramount. But too often, this information is stored across separate systems that are not linked and cannot be easily accessed – and is potentially not aligned with the technology that recipients are using to access care. This adds to the vulnerability of data – and not just medical and health data. Poor Cyber Resilience can impact and interrupt systems business-wide – from personal information, to rostering systems, personal alarm systems, and business applications like invoicing and payroll.
High staff change and turnover
Within aged care environments it is not uncommon to have staff that work across multiple areas or facilities (even over the course of a day shift and staff change). Particularly during the pandemic and with ongoing isolation rules, staff are moving between care roles with increasing frequency and new staff are constantly being brought in. As staff mistakes typically make up 70% of cybersecurity incidents, the more staff accessing data, the higher the risk.
Growing reliance on online services
Online booking systems, record keeping, mobile smart devices and tele-health services are all improvements that have made care more accessible and streamlined across the aged care sector. However, the more use of online spaces to store and share data, the more susceptible it is to data breaches. This is particularly true when working with a cohort that may be less familiar with using certain technology themselves.
How cybersecurity can improve health & business outcomes
While every business faces serious financial, brand and reputation risks from cyber-attacks, as we mentioned previously, aged care providers face double the risk. Because a data breach can also impact the health of those recipients in their care.
But there are two sides to every coin. A negative impact on health from poor cybersecurity awareness, also means a positive impact is possible from the right IT setup. Not only will it safeguard business, but actively improve health and care outcomes – for both those being cared for and the staff doing the caring.
Positive cyberhealth can mean:
✓ Better health data visibility
The storage of health data in secure integrated online systems – instead of manual files or a mixture of both – means data can be shared more quickly and securely across facilities or systems. This ensures staff always have the right information, and the right care can be delivered in a timely manner.
✓ A reduced staff workload
Smart automation tools automate repetitive admin tasks, minimising touchpoints for staff and reducing the risk of error. This frees up staff to spend more time on care without compromising key processes while securely recording vital information.
✓ Controlled access
Only 32% of aged care organisations are using vital cybersecurity measures like security awareness training,, encrypted data transmission or multi factor authentication. The right IT setup – with these features in place – can improve staff understanding of protocols and ensure access is only granted where appropriate.
✓ Lower business risks and costs
Appropriate cybersecurity measures and IT setup will ensure a lower risk of attack, while data backups and recovery will ensure you can respond faster if one does occur – without losing vital data. This ensures your ability to maintain care and operations with minimal interruption.
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Achieving better with a cyber healthcare partner
There is no doubt the need for improved IT and Cyber Resilience exists within the aged care sector and that the threats being faced are evolving rapidly. But it’s also true that IT shouldn’t take the focus away from care – it should add value to what you do and improve the sort of care you can provide. Technology is here to make things easier, not harder.
Bringing your current IT environment up to scratch and optimising your cybersecurity response requires several key steps:
- Audit and review of current IT environment
- Identify risk maturity
- Implement the right controls for your risk level
- Training and process setting
- Ongoing management and maintenance
Improving cyberhealth within your organisation requires a balance between investment, implementation, and current operations. This is where a Managed Services Provider can be of great value – not only managing the project and ensuring a smooth and effective transition but reducing the overall costs of IT implementation and ongoing management.
You look after the health, safety, and security of those in your care. They come to you as a specialist who can deliver personalised care in their best interest. The health of IT Security should be viewed in the same way.
Virtual IT Group is one of Australia’s premier Managed Services Providers, providing tailored technology management services and support for client networks, infrastructure, applications, and cybersecurity. We are actively supporting aged care providers to optimise their access to and use of technology and ensuring that technology plays a positive role in the delivery of aged care services.