India’s healthcare system finds itself at a critical crossroads, struggling to navigate challenges of accessibility, affordability, and quality by pursuing rapid digitization. While this digital transformation provides extensive benefits ranging from greater efficiency to improved quality of care, it also increases the amount of sensitive patient data healthcare organizations store electronically, escalating concerns regarding data privacy and protection. This article explores the healthcare landscape in India and proposes third-party risk management (TPRM) as a leading strategy to mitigate patient data risks. 

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The state of healthcare in India

a graphic displaying the key obstacles confronting india's healthcare system: inequitable infrastructure, inequitable access, urban-rural divide, data privacy and security

Socioeconomic disparities, including the quality of care offered in urban and rural areas and the affordability of services across public and private sectors, dominate the Indian healthcare system. India’s public healthcare sector provides world-class medical facilities in the country’s largest metropolitan areas (such as the National Capital Region and Mumbai) but struggles to extend this quality of care and infrastructure across the country’s rural regions (like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). On the other hand, India’s private healthcare sector is growing while grappling with the challenge of keeping costs affordable and providing equitable patient care across economic classes.

In both private and public sectors, digital technologies have emerged as the prominent solution, promising improved efficiency, lower costs, and equitable distribution of care. Examples of digital technologies and health systems healthcare professionals are now using include:

  • Electronic health records (EHR): EHR systems enable organizations to electronically store, update, and access a patient’s medical history, lab results, and more.  
  • Health information exchange (HIE): HIE platforms allow healthcare providers to share patient data to improve coordinated care and communication securely.
  • Telemedicine platforms: These platforms allow providers to facilitate remote healthcare services, including consultations and remote diagnosis.
  • Remote patient monitoring (RPM): RPM systems use digital devices to monitor patients' vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels). 
  • Mobile health applications: Health applications offer patients various services, including appointment reminders and health education. 

While these digital technologies and devices offer extensive benefits, they also require healthcare organizations to share patient data with third-party vendors and service providers, exposing sensitive information and the organization to third-party data privacy and protection risks and elevating the need for robust TPRM. 

TPRM and patient data risks

a graphic displaying the three main pillars of TPRM: vendor due diligence, vendor risk assessments, continuous monitoring

In India’s new interconnected healthcare landscape, the average healthcare organization relies on more third-party vendors and service providers than ever before. While beneficial in many ways, this reliance introduces an assortment of data privacy risks, as third-party vendors may not always adhere to stringent security practices or the regulatory standards upheld by the Indian government. With patient data being a prime target for cyberattacks and hackers, healthcare organizations must develop robust third-party risk management programs to mitigate vendor risk. 

TPRM allows healthcare organizations to identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor potential risks associated with their third-party network throughout the vendor lifecycle. A comprehensive third-party risk management program will evaluate a third-party vendor’s security posture, security incident history, and regulatory compliance. To assess vendors throughout the third-party lifecycle, TPRM programs primarily use the following tools and processes: 

  • Vendor due diligence: Conducting due diligence allows healthcare providers to scrutinize potential third-party partnerships' security posture, trustworthiness, and reliability before entrusting them with critical patient data. Rigorous due diligence enables healthcare security teams to mitigate cybersecurity risks and protect their organization’s data security
  • Risk assessments: Performing risk assessments enables healthcare organizations to comprehensively identify, evaluate, and prioritize cybersecurity risks associated with a specific vendor. By assessing factors such as threat likelihood, impact severity, and overall security posture, security personnel can quantify the level of risk a vendor presents to the organization and develop mitigation strategies to address these risks. Proactively addressing vendor risks strengthens an organization’s resilience to security breaches and enhances data security. 
  • Continuous security monitoring (CSM): CSM is a TPRM strategy that involves the ongoing surveillance of information security controls, vulnerabilities, and cyber threats. By implementing CSM, healthcare organizations can monitor vendor activities, identify security incidents instantaneously, and initiate timely remediation to prevent a patient’s personal data from being compromised. 

Together, these strategies work synergistically to safeguard patient data. By taking a multi-layered approach to TPRM, healthcare organizations can mitigate vulnerabilities, comply with industry data privacy regulations, and protect the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive patient information. Keep reading to learn how UpGuard helps healthcare organizations with third-party risk management and data security. 

Enhancing your TPRM program with UpGuard Vendor Risk

UpGuard has long been recognized as a leading provider of third-party risk management solutions for the healthcare industry, enhancing risk visibility and strengthening data security. In the words of Westfund, a premier Australian healthcare organization, “UpGuard painted a picture of our vendor security that we had never been able to see. Using UpGuard, we could finally determine each vendor’s true security state.”

UpGuard Vendor Risk empowers healthcare organizations, like Westfund, to streamline their TPRM processes and protect sensitive patient data by utilizing state-of-the-art product features, such as: 

By utilizing these features and others within the UpGuard Vendor Risk platform, healthcare organizations can protect sensitive patient data with a comprehensive TPRM program composed of the critical initiatives previously discussed in this article. 

Due diligence

Due diligence is a key component of the TPRM process and helps security teams enhance data security. UpGuard Vendor Risk empowers healthcare organizations to perform robust due diligence with comprehensive cybersecurity questionnaires and vendor security ratings. By using UpGuard’s security questionnaires and ratings, healthcare organizations can gain complete insight into a vendor’s security posture and risk profile, identify vulnerabilities, and evaluate the vendor’s history of data security. 

Here’s more information on UpGuard’s security ratings and questionnaires:

  • Security Ratings: UpGuard’s proprietary security ratings represent a data-driven, objective, and dynamic measurement of an organization’s security posture. UpGuard collects billions of data points through trusted methods to calculate its security ratings. This data and UpGuard’s proprietary algorithm produce a security rating out of 950.
  • Security Questionnaires: UpGuard’s automated security questionnaires enable healthcare organizations to holistically assess a vendor’s security posture. Users can access UpGuard’s industry-leading questionnaire library or build their own questionnaires from scratch.  

By establishing a comprehensive vendor due diligence process with UpGuard Vendor Risk, healthcare organizations in India can prevent security risks from entering their network and further enhance their data security regimen. However, due diligence is only one of the TPRM advancements healthcare organizations must be aware of; vendor risk assessments are also critical. 

Risk assessments

While due diligence helps organizations assess vendor risk before onboarding, security personnel use risk assessments to evaluate vendor security posture throughout the third-party relationship. UpGuard provides healthcare organizations access to easy-to-use risk assessments, making it easy to develop a comprehensive risk assessment cadence and move through the assessment process even across large vendor networks. 

Here’s how UpGuard’s risk assessments help healthcare organizations protect patient data:

  • Pinpoint weaknesses in a vendor’s data handling processes. 
  • Ensure vendors adhere to data protection regulations (GDPR, HIPAA, DPDP).
  • Identify security threats and vulnerabilities before they materialize. 
  • Streamline the evaluation of third-party data handling risks. 
  • Strengthen vendor access controls and authentication mechanisms. 
  • Educate third parties and stakeholders to prioritize data security practices.
  • Prevent damaging third-party data breaches.
  • Prioritize remediation efforts based on vendor criticality.
  • Monitor vendor security protocols throughout the vendor lifecycle. 

In addition to helping users achieve all of the benefits listed above, UpGuard’s risk assessments reduce the time it takes to assess a new or existing vendor by more than half compared to traditional manual assessments. According to one CISO on Gartner Peer Insights, UpGuard Vendor Risk enables security teams to “easily measure our vendors’ cyber risks” and “completely overhaul” spreadsheet-based assessment processes.

After establishing a due diligence and risk assessment process, Indian healthcare organizations should implement continuous security monitoring into their TPRM and data security programs. UpGuard can help healthcare organizations with CSM as well. 

Continuous security monitoring

Due diligence and risk assessments assess a vendor at a given time, but CSM allows security teams to evaluate a vendor’s data security hygiene around the clock. By implementing CSM into their TPRM program, healthcare organizations can immediately identify changes to a vendor’s security posture and quickly remediate data security risks before sensitive data is compromised. 

The UpGuard Vendor Risk platform includes continuous monitoring, and UpGuard uses automation to help healthcare organizations identify the following data security risks in real time: 

From identifying vulnerabilities to conducting risk assessments, UpGuard Vendor Risk helps healthcare organizations develop comprehensive TPRM programs, safeguarding sensitive patient data across their third-party ecosystem or supply chain.

Get started with the world’s #1 TPRM solution: UpGuard Vendor Risk

UpGuard Vendor Risk is highly trusted among healthcare organizations worldwide for third-party risk management and vendor risk management solutions. In Winter 2024, UpGuard earned the title of  #1 Third-Party & Supplier Risk Management Software from G2. G2 is the world’s most trusted peer-to-peer review site for SaaS software and has recognized UpGuard as a market leader in TPRM software across the Americas, APAC, and EMEA for six consecutive quarters. 

Get started with UpGuard Vendor Risk and elevate your data security today.

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