Partially offboarded healthcare employees: Risks and remedies

Failure to properly offboard employees exposes healthcare organizations to serious security risks. Learn about these risks and how to avoid them with identity governance.

When an employee departs, does your data stay put? Employees can leave an organization for a variety of reasons, and managing their departures is an integral part of business dynamics. Yet, the potential security hazards posed by staff departures loom large. Insufficient offboarding procedures make healthcare organizations more vulnerable to cybersecurity risks, from careless mishaps to calculated, malicious actions.

High turnover rates and layoffs only add to the security pressures of offboarding. Sometimes staff depart at short notice. Healthcare organizations need to already have solutions in place to avoid the risks of improperly offboarded employees. For example, if organizations don’t have the full picture of all employee identities and assets, a former employee could retain privileged access to exploit down the line.

Key concerns associated with partial offboarding

Partially or improperly offboarding employees is like leaving the front door open and your valuables exposed. Here are some of the key associated risks:

  1. Unauthorized access: Employees who are only partially offboarded may retain access to critical systems, applications, or sensitive data. This leaves your organization vulnerable to unauthorized access, data breaches, and potential misuse of information.
  2. Data leakage: Former employees who retain access to sensitive data increase the risk of data leakage. Whether this is patient records, financial information, or intellectual property, leakage jeopardizes the confidentiality and integrity of your assets.
  3. Insider threats: Former employees with lingering access may unintentionally or intentionally pose insider threats. They can misuse their access privileges due to dissatisfaction or external coercion.
  4. Compliance violations: Regulatory compliance is obviously crucial in the healthcare industry. Improper offboarding can result in non-compliance with data protection regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It can also bring severe penalties and legal consequences.
  5. Reputation damage: Security incidents stemming from partially offboarded employees can harm your organization's reputation. News of data breaches or leakages of sensitive information can erode trust among clients, partners, the public, and most importantly – patients.
  6. Intellectual property risks: In industries where intellectual property is vital, such as healthcare research and development, partially offboarded employees may retain access to proprietary information, putting intellectual assets at risk.
  7. Operational disruption: Partial offboarding can also disrupt normal operations. Investigating and remediating security incidents can lead to downtime and potential financial losses.
  8. Ineffective incident response: Partially offboarded employees can be difficult to identify as the source of a security incident. This delays your organization's ability to contain and mitigate security threats.
  9. Credential exploitation: Lingering access provides opportunities for hackers to exploit credentials. Using legitimate accounts for unauthorized entry makes it harder to detect and respond to security incidents.
  10. Complex access management: Managing access for partially offboarded employees becomes a complex task, especially in large organizations. This increases the likelihood of oversights and errors, exposing the organization to security vulnerabilities.

Avoiding the risks of partially offboarded employees

To address the risks discussed above, organizations should prioritize strong offboarding processes. Automation and integration between HR and IT systems also support efficient and secure offboarding procedures.

A robust identity governance solution should allow organizations to securely manage access rights, ensure regulatory compliance, and minimize risks. Most of all, it will help fortify the data security essential to quality healthcare delivery. In an industry where patient confidentiality is paramount, identity governance is an ally to navigating workforce transitions with confidence and precision.

Let’s take a closer look at the necessary identity governance capabilities and their benefits.

Immediate access revocation

Identity governance solutions should enable healthcare organizations to swiftly revoke access privileges when an employee leaves. This mitigates the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive patient data or critical systems, and ensures compliance with data protection regulations.

Comprehensive access review

With the complex network of systems and applications in healthcare, identity governance should facilitate a thorough access review during offboarding. This ensures that no access permissions remain, reducing the potential for security gaps and protecting against insider threats.

Regulatory compliance assurance

Healthcare organizations operate within a regulatory framework requiring stringent data protection. Ideally, identity governance solutions should provide an auditable trail of access changes to ensure offboarding adheres to industry regulations.

Reduced human error

Automating the offboarding process through an identity governance solution minimizes the risk of human error. Advancing past manual system access management significantly reduces the odds of overlooked or incomplete de-provisioning.

Efficient workflow integration

Identity governance solutions should seamlessly integrate with existing HR and IT workflows. Allowing for automated communication between departments helps reduce administrative burdens and ensure an efficient transition.

Customizable access policies

Every healthcare organization has unique roles and responsibilities. A robust identity governance solution allows for customizable access policies. Tailoring access rights to specific job roles makes the offboarding process more granular and precise.

Enhanced security posture

Identity governance for offboarding elevates your overall security posture. Proactively managing employee identities minimizes the opportunity for cyberattacks, and it helps to meet increasingly challenging cyber insurance requirements.

Clear and comprehensive offboarding with identity governance

In healthcare organizations, the benefits of identity governance for offboarding extend beyond efficiency. They provide a secure mechanism to manage access rights, ensure compliance, minimize risks, and fortify the data security essential to patient confidentiality. Identity governance safeguards data and systems, maintaining patient trust and supporting enhanced care quality.

Learn how Imprivata Identity Governance and Administration (formerly Imprivata Identity Governance) can help minimize offboarding security risks.