Risk Assessment

9 Cyber Risk Questions Every Healthcare Practice Owner Should Ask

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9 Cyber Risk Questions Every Healthcare Practice Owner Should Ask

Security is a big challenge for healthcare practices.

When a ransomware, hacking, or data breach happens, the damages can be significant, often resulting in serious financial and reputational losses. See this breach calculator.

There may also be fines, investigations, and repercussions with regulatory colleges.

In order for healthcare practices like dentists and physicians to truly protect themselves from cyber risks, they need to be able to understand where the gaps and vulnerabilities exist.

To help understand cyber risk management, healthcare providers should ask the following questions:


Does your practice utilize technology to prevent data breaches?

Every practice must have robust cyber security tools and anti-virus systems in place. Additionally, there are new solutions which can block human error. These systems act as a first line of defense for detecting and preventing potentially debilitating breaches.


While it may sound obvious, many healthcare practices don’t take cyber threats seriously, and fail to implement even the simplest protections. We see a very high fail rate on security risk assessments, even when practice owners think their IT providers have it covered.

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Preventive measures must be reviewed on a regular basis, as cyber threats can evolve quickly. Dentists, Doctors, and other Healthcare providers must ensure that they review practice technology at least annually, ensuring that cyber security tools are up to date and effective. A professional IT security provider will deliver proof of security and computer health reports.

Has the practice owner or management team identified a senior member or consultant to be responsible for organizational cyber security preparedness?

Practices that fail to create cyber-specific leadership roles often end up paying more for a data breach than practices that do. This is because, in the event of a cyber incident, a fast response and clear guidance is needed to contain a breach and limit damages. Here’s a breach calculator to help you determine your potential financial risk.


When establishing the role of information privacy & security officer, practice owners need to be involved in the process. This individual should have a good mix of technical and business experience. This individual should also be able to understand and explain cyber risks and mitigation at a high level, so they are easy to understand for those who are not well-versed in technical terminology.


It should be noted that hiring an information privacy & security officer or creating a new cyber leadership role is not practical for every organization. In these instances, organizations should identify a certified, experienced outsourced consultant to ensure that the practice has a go-to resource for managing cyber security.

Does the practice have a comprehensive cyber security program? Does it include specific policies and procedures?

It is essential for healthcare practices to create comprehensive data privacy and cyber security programs. These programs help the practice build a framework for detecting threats, remain informed on emerging risks and establish a cyber response plan.


Ensure Compliance

Healthcare practice owners should ensure that cyber security programs align with industry standards. These programs should be audited on a regular basis to ensure effectiveness and internal compliance.

Does the practice have a breach response plan in place?

Even the most secure organizations can be impacted by a data breach. What’s more, it can often take days or even months for a company to notice its data has been compromised.

No Data, no business.

While a cyber security program helps secure your digital assets, breach response plans provide clear steps for you to follow when a cyber event occurs. Breach response plans allow your practice to notify impacted patients and partners quickly and efficiently, limiting financial and reputational damage.

Practice owners should ensure that crisis management and breach response plans are documented. Specific actions noted in breach response plans should also be rehearsed with team members and IT providers to evaluate effectiveness.

Your breach response plan should clearly identify key individuals and their responsibilities. This ensures that there is no confusion in the event of a breach.


Have you discussed and formalized a cyber risk budget with your security provider? Maybe you don’t yet have one?

Both overpaying and underpaying for cyber security services can negatively affect your practice. Creating a budget based on informed decisions and research helps practice owners invest in the right tools.


An annual security risk assessment is not just a privacy law requirement, (in most provinces) it can help you find gaps in your security to understand protections you have so that your most valuable assets are prioritized.

Have you provided adequate employee training to ensure sensitive data is handled correctly?

While employees can be your greatest asset, they also represent one of their biggest cyber liabilities. This is because hackers commonly exploit employees through spear phishing and similar scams. When this happens, employees can unknowingly give criminals access to their employer’s entire system.


In order to ensure data security, organizations must provide thorough employee training. Get help from a professional organization to oversee this process and ensure training programs meaningful and based on more than just written policies. See Alexio Cybersecurity Education.


It is important see that education programs are properly designed to fit your specific industry and foster a culture of cyber security awareness.

Have you taken the appropriate steps to reduce cyber risks when working with third parties?

Working alongside third-party vendors is common for many businesses. However, whenever an organization entrusts its data to an outside source, there is a chance that it could be compromised.


Practice owners should ensure that vendors and other partners are aware of their organization’s cyber security expectations. If not provided by the vendor, create a standard third-party agreement that identifies your expectations of how the vendor will protect your sensitive data and comply with privacy laws and college regulations. It is also important to know whether or not the vendor will subcontract any services and how it intends to inform you if your data is compromised.

Do you have a system in place for staying current on cyber trends, news, and federal, provincial, collegial privacy & security regulations?

Cyber-related legislation can change with little warning, often having a sprawling impact on the way organizations do business.


You should ensure that your information privacy & security officer is aware of his or her role in upholding cyber compliance. In addition, you should ensure that there is a system in place for identifying, evaluating, and implementing compliance-related legislation. Alexio certified privacy & security advisors can help.

Has your practice conducted a thorough risk assessment? Have you purchased or considered purchasing cyber liability insurance?

Cyber liability insurance is specifically designed to address the risks that come with using modern technology—risks that other types of business liability coverage simply will not cover.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, cyber insurance companies have been asking for many more layers of security and commitment from customers that they have cybersecurity programs in place.

The best way to understand your needs for cybersecurity is to conduct an initial security risk assessment. From there you can create a cybersecurity plan in and monitor it to ensure your protecting your most valuable assets.

Breaches effect everyone in the practice from the owner(s), to staff, 3rd parties, and of course your patients. All team members play a role in information security. However, managing personnel and technology is a huge challenge for healthcare practices, and for most it is hard to where to start.

Alexio is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about cyber risk prevention strategies you can implement today

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In 2020 Anne received a global cyber-defense award “Most Innovative – Women in Cybersecurity’. This year her automated cybersecurity education program was also a winner. 

Anne has dedicated her career to helping healthcare practice and small business owners understand technology, how to leverage it, and more importantly, how to do it safely. Over her 20+ years as an educator and tech innovator she has earned global awards for her efforts. 

Anne keeps the client as her ‘true north’ in how she creates affordable and effective tools and training for privacy & data security. Anne is on a mission to help everyone understand online threats and be able to defend themselves at home and at work when using technology.

Learn how to get help from Anne here: https://getalexio.com/anne-genge