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Access control systems in healthcare for comprehensive security

Access control systems in healthcare for comprehensive security

Access control systems safeguard healthcare organizations' resources, systems, and physical areas. These systems ensure that only authorized users with the appropriate permissions can access controlled materials, such as medicine dispensaries or electronic medical records.


The importance of access control in hospital security

Access control is a component of both physical and cybersecurity efforts in healthcare organizations. Knowing the location of critical data and systems, along with monitoring who accesses them, when, and how, is important. 

Access control also prevents unauthorized access and privilege escalation, which are often the causes of breaches. Connecting physical and digital access controls simplifies administrative burdens and ensures security and compliance.

Read more: What is cybersecurity in healthcare?


Types of access control systems

Health IT teams should be aware of three main types of access control systems:


Role-based access control

Role-based access control is based on the resources needed to perform specific job roles. Rather than assigning permissions to individuals, permissions are assigned to roles, reducing administrative overhead.


Discretionary access control

Discretionary access control allows information to be shared on a need-to-know basis, decentralizing access control decisions. In this system, the data owner has control over who can access the information. 


Mandatory access control

Mandatory access control is commonly used in government and military settings. Access rights are organized into tiers, such as restricted, confidential, and secret. The user's clearance level determines access to resources. 

Read moreA guide to HIPAA and access controls 


Challenges of access control in healthcare

Healthcare organizations face several challenges related to access control:


Privilege creep

Privilege creep occurs when access control teams grant privileges as one-off instances, without considering the long-term implications. To address this challenge, access control teams should resist granting privileges without a thorough evaluation. 


Vendor management

Hospitals rely on numerous external vendors, and data breaches often involve third-party entities. Implementing a thorough vetting process for vendors before granting access to digital resources is necessary. 


Contextual considerations

Context is important in access control decisions. For example, in a hospital setting where doctors and nurses wear masks and gloves, biometrics for secure authentication may not be feasible. Access control teams must consider the unique circumstances of the healthcare environment when implementing security measures.

Read also: Access control systems in healthcare


Improving access control measures in healthcare organizations

To enhance access control measures, healthcare organizations can take the following steps:


Internal audit

Conducting an internal audit is the first step towards enhancing access control. This knowledge enables the development of administrative policies that define and clarify IT's role in granting and revoking access.


Multifactor or passwordless authentication

Implementing multifactor or passwordless authentication systems adds an extra layer of protection to digital resources. These systems require users to provide multiple forms of authentication or remove the need for passwords altogether, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.


Mobile device key cards

Using key cards attached to an individual's mobile device can prevent physical breaches. This method ensures that only authorized personnel can access restricted areas or resources.


Deploying a combination of policies

Reducing administrative fatigue and increasing the effectiveness of security measures can be achieved by deploying a combination of policies. These policies should consider the unique needs and challenges of the healthcare environment, ensuring comprehensive access control.

Related: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide



How can healthcare organizations ensure the effectiveness of their access control systems?

Regular maintenance, updates, and testing of access control systems are ensure their effectiveness. Additionally, ongoing training for staff on access control policies and procedures can help reinforce security awareness and compliance.


What factors should healthcare organizations consider when implementing an access control system?

Factors to consider include compliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, scalability to accommodate the organization's growth, interoperability with existing security systems, ease of use for staff, and the ability to customize access levels based on roles and responsibilities.


How can access control systems integrate with other security systems in healthcare facilities?

Access control systems can integrate with video surveillance systems, intrusion detection systems, alarm systems, and visitor management systems to provide a comprehensive security solution, allowing for centralized monitoring and management of security events.

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