Tremendous advances have been made in the healthcare field over the past decade. Digital diagnostic and recordkeeping systems have streamlined care for patients of every age. Technologies that make it easier to monitor patient activities have been employed in facilities around the world. Some of the same technologies used by healthcare providers have also found favor among the residents of assisted living facilities. Home-based “smart” technologies have been adopted by residents, allowing them to interact with their environments in entirely new ways.
With new technologies come new challenges, however, and one of the emerging risks with the adoption of always-connected smart technologies is the possibility of a data breach. Another is the loss of privacy, giving rise to concerns about liability on the part of the facility itself. Healthcare facilities must be proactive in mitigating these risks by implementing cyber liability insurance, protecting the facilities’ assets, personnel, and residents from the losses associated with a cyber-related crime.
Technology in Assisted Living Facilities: Pros and Cons
Computer-based technologies take many forms in the healthcare field. Some of these forms include systems that improve the care and safety of residents of a given facility, such as digitized health records and monitoring systems that help keep a watchful eye on the activities of residents. Electronic health records, of course, represent a substantial cyber security risk, as these records often contain personally-identifying information – Social Security numbers, banking details, and medical treatment information — that is of value to criminals. Monitoring systems have been employed in about 15-20% of assisted living communities in the U.S., with numbers expected to grow dramatically in the coming years. When implementing such systems, the concept of resident privacy becomes a leading concern. Healthcare providers must balance their residents’ privacy against the role these monitoring systems play in improving resident safety.
Home-based smart technologies are a tech sector that is becoming increasingly present in facilities nationwide. It is no secret that computer technologies may be intimidating to many seniors, and motor skills needed to operate keyboards and mice may not be sufficient in a sizeable percentage of elderly residents. Voice-activated smart digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and Apple’s Siri, do away with the need for fine motor skills, allowing seniors to access the world’s information simply by speaking aloud. Smart devices that control the environment – thermostats, electric wall plugs, lighting, and even automated pet feeders can be manipulated through the voice-activated interfaces. Seniors appreciate the ease with which they can have questions answered and connect with family members through these devices, giving them a sense of empowerment over their environments.
Unfortunately, these technologies are also a ripe target for cyber criminals intent on stealing personal data from unwitting users. Seniors are a vulnerable population, often falling victim to phishing schemes and online scams that are designed to collect personal information from users. Victims of such schemes can have their stolen identities used to apply for credit cards or banking services, potentially resulting in the loss of financial assets.
Cyber Liability Insurance – The Core of Digital Risk Management
Assisted living facilities owe their residents a safe, comfortable environment. In order to ensure that safety, considerations about the use of technologies and how a data breach can affect residents should be one of the many factors addressed by management teams. Data breaches can result in the loss of sensitive information, and resident claims against organizations after a breach can result in thousands or even millions of dollars in legal expenses and settlement payments. Cyber liability insurance, then, is a critical component of risk management. A specialized liability insurance policy of this kind offers a financial safety net, protecting a facility’s assets from loss. These policies typically provide coverage for credit monitoring and notification for victims of a data breach, and may even offer business interruption expense reimbursement. As technologies continue to be adopted by the healthcare industry, cyber liability insurance stands as a primary tool in protecting organizations in the face of data breaches and the subsequent loss of privacy for residents.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.