The recent string of ransomware attacks on hospitals only validates The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology’s recently published research suggesting that ransomware is becoming increasingly common in healthcare organizations. MedStar Health could be the latest hospital victim to a ransomware attack, although its officials have not confirmed or denied this claim. But what exactly is ransomware, and is there anything hospitals can do to prevent an attack?
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware) that blocks hospital staff from their own data, by accessing and encrypting their files. It then demands payment to restore the data typically through Bitcoin, a cyber currency that is extremely difficult to trace. The most common ransomware programs are spread through spam email campaigns disguised as invoices.
Why are hospitals a target?
Hospitals are progressively becoming a major target for cyber criminals because they are very likely to store highly sensitive information on older systems, so they often lack the latest security features, such as strong spam email filters, and require a more difficult process to back up information. Cyber criminals also know hospitals are more able to pay, and have an urgent need to regain access to their data.
What hospitals have been affected?
Recently, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 to get back their access to information. Two other hospitals in southern California were also attacked, but technology specialists were able to make sure no data was compromised and nothing was paid. Similarly, Methodist Hospital in Kentucky was also hit recently, but were successful in fending it off without payment to cybercriminals.
While $17,000 may seem like a relatively small amount of money, cybersecurity experts suggest not paying the ransom because without the ransom, these cyber criminals will be out of business. There is also no guarantee that the hackers won’t attempt to install the malware again.
How are hospitals protecting themselves?
Employees are usually the main target for cyber criminals because they have direct access to health system information and use hospital computers daily. Bad habits – including opening suspicious emails and not taking the initiative to keep their own personal devices secure – can open the door to potential cyber threats.
Experts recommend employee education and awareness programs to help staff understand how the attacks work and how to stop, or at least not fall for them. Additionally, hospitals should frequently back up their data so hard drives can be easily wiped and restored to their previous states.
Ransomware has existed for a couple years now, but only recently hit the United States. Because of HIPAA laws, hospitals have been working hard to keep hackers from stealing patient data, not holding it hostage. Crazy, right?
Prior to my arrival in sunny Orlando, Florida, I was on a flight from Detroit, Michigan that required my plane to get de-iced before takeoff. It was 20 degrees at 5AM in Ann Arbor, and 5 hours later, I was in 80 degree weather. During the conference, I’d walk outside during breaks and soak up some Vitamin D. Thank you Greystone for picking warm locations for this annual conference.
#1 Least favorite memory: It was freezing indoors. The conference rooms were set to polar vortex temperatures.
#2. Larry Bailin’s keynote speech
I was a tweeting machine during Larry Bailin’s keynote speech. Everything that came out of his mouth was so insightful and incredibly important. Some of my favorite quotes were:
“What you can and cannot afford should never determine what you should do (in marketing)” – @LarryBailin#hcic15 Word.
#2 Least favorite memory: Realizing his mammo-grahams recipe included potatoes and peanut butter. That was as unappetizing as the idea of getting a mammogram.)
#3. Watching the KLM lost & found beagle video
During Jay Baer’s keynote “Hug Your Haters,” Jay showed examples of good and bad responses to angry customers on social media. One of the “good” examples presented was about KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The airline uses information such as seat numbers, phone numbers and social media details to reunited passengers with their left-behind belongings. Oh, and there’s Sherlock too:
There were a lot of sessions about hospitals improving their search marketing, whether it was through SEO via content creation or PPC via Adwords and Display. One of the sessions that I attended was about Wake Forest Baptist Health System and how they ran PPC campaigns that went to an unbranded landing page about home dialysis. They took a page from what pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, are doing with general education and their unbranded websites such as arthritis.com. Another session featured Memorial Healthcare System and how they are leveraging Google Adwords, Pandora ads and more to increase conversions and awareness online. Of course, there was also the session that we presented with Beaumont Health about their journey to predictable and scalable patient acquisition. It’s really great to see more and more hospitals enter the PPC space, since 77% of patients use search prior to scheduling an appointment.
#4 Least favorite memory: So this isn’t technically a “least favorite” memory, but even though there were a few more sessions featuring hospitals and their search marketing examples, those examples were still the exception. It’d like to see more hospitals and their executives become more educated on the power of SEO and PPC and how search marketing can turn online visitors into real life patients.
5. The idea of winning an Apple iWatch
The thing to win this year in the exhibitor’s hall was the Apple iWatch. It was also a featured talking point in some of the advanced technologies sessions. The iWatch is still in the early adopter’s phase, and based on the Gartner’s Hype Cycle, I think it’s still at the peak of inflated expectations, getting ready to dip into the trough of disillusionment.
When consumers in 2015 face an important choice, they will gravitate towards whoever can provide them with the information they need, and offers them services they can trust. Like all hospital marketers, the Web Marketing team at Beaumont Health has had to overcome significant challenges in offering a robust digital marketing program that can meet those expectations. Tim Schaden (CEO of Fluency Health) and Lori Manos (Director of Web Marketing at Beaumont Health System) will share many of the hard-earned lessons we’ve learned over the past three years, with a special focus on the practical insights that should be relevant to any hospital marketer, including:
Getting The Most Out Of Paid Search
The session will explain how we’ve cycled through over a hundred thousand keyword combinations to find the terms that reliably produce conversions in Beaumont’s market.
Driving More Referrals And Appointments
We’ll share some of the practical steps we’ve taken to make it as easy as possible for people to convert…not just by optimizing forms, but by tapping into other channels, such as the call centers, to generate appointments and referrals.
Tapping Into The Power Of Organic Search
We’ll explore how we’ve been able to develop comprehensive content recommendations that — on average — generate 75% more organic traffic within the first six months after they’ve been applied to a given service line.
Making Our Case As A Business Investment
Finally, we’ll delve into how we’ve been able to connect our investment in PPC and organic search with the downstream revenue it generates. We’ll take you through our straightforward but powerful investment framework, and explain how it can be adapted to be used within almost any organization.
After more than 25 years of working with consumer brands, we understand the importance of focusing on the revenue impact of any marketing investment, and it’s exciting to make that case with healthcare providers. We’re looking forward to sharing our experiences, and to learning more from yours. Hope to see you there!
U.S. News and World Reportreleased its 2013 rankings of the best adult and children’s hospitals in the United States, along with an Honor Roll of the overall top 18 hospitals in the nation. The rankings cover nearly 5,000 medical centers across the country and span 16 medical specialties. Hospitals ranking near the top of at least six specialties earn a spot on the Honor Roll. (more…)