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Understanding the cyber risks faced by independent and private ambulance firms

In an era governed by technology, the significance of cyber security cannot be overstated, especially for vital service providers such as ambulance and patient transfer companies. The reliance on technology leaves your business open to unique vulnerabilities, particularly when it comes to patient data, operational systems and communication networks. 

Let's take a look at these vulnerabilities and explore the potential consequences of cyber threats, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks and operational disruptions.

The risks faced by ambulance firms

Ambulance, patient transport and event medical companies may handle sensitive medical information about patients while providing their services. This may include personal health data, medical history and treatment plans. Any data breach or unauthorised access to this data jeopardises patient confidentiality and can lead to severe privacy violations.

It’s worth highlighting that the loss of paper files or patient report forms (PRFs) also counts as a data breach, which will have to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Even if patient data isn’t stolen, cyber criminals can restrict your access to it, which can mean your staff have little to no information about a patient’s medical history or allergies. A cyber-attack in 2023 did just that, with two UK ambulance services losing access to patient data. This caused major disruption.

You might think that you don’t need to worry because your business doesn’t store patient information on its computer systems. However, cyber criminals could target client and supplier information, as well as your own business details. This could lead to documents being held to ransom. Alternatively, hackers could use your email accounts to distribute messages with malicious attachments or send phishing emails requesting payment to their own accounts while pretending to be your business. 

Operational systems within ambulance and patient transport companies, including dispatch systems and vehicle communication networks, are critical for ensuring a seamless service. Compromising these systems could lead to delays in response times, communication breakdowns and even dispatching errors. 

In addition, radio-based and mobile data networks serve as lifelines for ambulance crews and event medical services. These enable vital communication with dispatchers, hospitals, first aiders and other emergency responders. However, interference or tampering with these networks can disrupt channels, impeding coordination and hindering the delivery of timely medical assistance. Even if it’s not an emergency, disruption could result in missed appointments and patient distress.  

The consequences of a cyber attack

In the worst-case scenario, the consequences of cyber threats can be life-threatening. If an emergency response team is dispatched to the wrong address, is unable to access patient allergy details or cannot communicate with the local A&E, patient well-being may be put at risk. 

And that’s without the potential for patient confidentiality breaches across all types of medical transport business. Not only does that mean patient medical information could become public, but it also puts them at risk of identity theft. 

Plus, there are financial implications for your business. For instance, retrieving documents and files held for ransom, paying regulatory fines or covering the cost of reputation management and legal support.

You will also lose trust and credibility within your community, which could result in lost business. 

Protect your ambulance business from cybercrime

To address these vulnerabilities effectively, businesses must adopt a comprehensive approach to cyber security. 

This includes implementing robust security measures, regularly updating software systems, encrypting sensitive data, and providing staff training on cyber security best practices. Remember: if you don’t have someone managing this within your team, external IT consultants can often be brought in to help.

Additionally, investing in Cyber Insurance can provide an added layer of protection. This specialised cover can help businesses mitigate financial losses and recover more swiftly in the event of a cyber incident.

It provides financial protection by helping to cover costs associated with cyber crimes. This includes data breach response, data restoration and business interruption losses. 

Moreover, Cyber Insurance often includes legal support and risk management resources. This enables your company to effectively manage and mitigate the impact of cyber threats while safeguarding your reputation and ensuring the highest standards of patient care.

Get in touch today

At One Broker Ambulance, we can offer a FREE, no-obligation insurance scan to businesses looking to arrange a policy, helping you to identify the protection you need most.

Don't leave your company vulnerable to cyber threats. Contact the One Broker Ambulance team on 01603 218295 to get a personalised quote today. 

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