Microsoft offers tools to protect patient data amid heightened COVID-19 security threats

In a recent HIMSS20 Digital presentation, Microsoft M365 Security and Compliance CTO Hemma Prafullchandra warned that bad actors have felt empowered to take advantage of coronavirus fears.
By Kat Jercich
02:24 PM

St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has 15,000 employees and more than 1 million patient records. 

Given the sheer amount of data being exchanged on a daily basis, "keeping our patient information safe is paramount," said Chad Brisendine, chief information officer at St. Luke's, in a video played during a recent HIMSS20 Digital presentation. 

The scope of the health system presented information security challenges, said the St. Luke's team: It was relying on nearly two dozen systems to ensure data protection.

"It put our analysts in a place where it was incredibly time-consuming," said Erin Boris, information security strategic specialist at St. Luke's. 

By using Microsoft 365 tools, St. Luke's team members said, the system can receive a centralized system of alerts and more easily monitor the security health of the network.

During the sponsored presentation, Protecting Health Information, Microsoft M365 Security and Compliance Chief Technology Officer Hemma Prafullchandra explained that bad actors have been empowered to take advantage of the current environment.

With huge numbers of people relying on telemedicine for care and fears around coronavirus running high, Prafullchandra said, "the most important challenge is earning and retaining your patients' trust."

"Currently, attackers are leveraging COVID-19 to attack" healthcare organizations, Prafullchandra said. A recent survey of information security professionals found that 94% agreed: The pandemic has escalated threats to enterprise systems and data. And, many said, that's unlikely to change even after the crisis passes.

Good data governance, said Prafullchandra, goes hand-in-hand with both quality of care – through proactively securing patient information – and cost reduction. 

"We believe trust is a critical aspect of productivity," Prafullchandra said.

Prafullchandra outlined the security features of Microsoft 365 tools, including the ability to leverage ongoing risk assessments, use ongoing compliance-related tools and provide visibility into an organization's security posture. 

"The first step in any protection strategy is understanding the data," Prafullchandra said.

HIMSS20 Digital

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Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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