If you are a medical practitioner or a healthcare service provider, you’ve probably heard from a gazillion sources about why SSL is important for your business. Yes, that’s crucial for your business, and not having one installed can result in security breaches and the repercussions that follow.
After all, the healthcare sector is like none other and involves exchanging highly confidential data that must be protected from the very beginning. This journey begins with switching websites from HTTP to HTTPS in the virtual world because data transmission is the starting point of every communication. It is now a prerequisite laid down under several laws and policies because healthcare websites involve exchanging sensitive data.
For example, a telemedicine consultation site enables the exchange of prescriptions, patient history, and personally identifiable data. Even the most basic site used by a healthcare practitioner for marketing purposes collects patient names, health conditions, and other details which must be duly protected. If you are still not convinced about why you need an SSL or what this security essential can do, let’s start with understanding it.
What is an SSL Certificate?
A Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate is a misnomer for the currently used Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate installed on the webserver. It is issued by a credible third party known as the Certificate Authority (CA) and acts as security essential and a trust seal. The type of trust seal varies depending on the level of validation sought by the applicant.
The SSL’s power to keep the site secure comes from enabling the HTTPS protocol, which automatically encrypts all the server-client communication through public-private key encryption. This prevents eavesdroppers from accessing data that is confidential and protected. Also, it eliminates the possibility of someone modifying the in-transit data, which can wreak havoc in the case of medical consultations.
Why you need to Secure your Medical Website with an SSL Certificate – In a nutshell
A healthcare portal isn’t just a marketing tool but a platform to exchange highly confidential personal data. These include prescriptions, consultations, or just a contact form seeking clarity on a particular condition. Whatever may be the case, it requires adequate security measures to be incorporated to protect the best interests of all the parties involved. Let us now discuss some of the top reasons why SSL is important for your medical site.
1. Improves Cybersecurity
According to the IBM X-Force report, the healthcare sector was one of the most attacked industries before the pandemic. That’s quite evident from the millions of records breached around 2016 — the turning point when healthcare businesses realized the need to protect their data from eavesdroppers and thieves.
This is by switching the website from HTTP to HTTPS, which is only possible by installing an SSL/TLS certificate on the webserver that hosts the medical site. It prevents a wide range of cyberattacks like credential theft, eavesdropping, and much more by encrypting the data from the moment it leaves the client until it reaches the server.
The encryption is triggered by a cryptographic suite which makes the data appear like a random string of characters. These can only be interpreted with the private key, which is restricted to the intended recipient and is made known through a process called the SSL/TLS handshake, which refers to the first interaction between the server and the client. The entire process is designed to keep the data safe from cybercriminals, but that requires the website owner to protect and limit access to the private key.
2. Legal Compliance
Telemedicine has been a hot topic of debate for quite some time, and in many parts of the world, it was not permitted until the pandemic. The policymakers in the US lowered the legal barriers only after the pandemic so that medical practitioners were more accessible. However, that did not make things easier from a legal standpoint because businesses still had to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
This legislation prevents the disclosure of health-related information without the patient’s explicit consent, which means any breach could result in a series of lawsuits and fines. Likewise, the GDPR, which applies to the EU nations, also makes mention of a data controller to keep the transmitted information safe. Since health-related data is received through the website, it only makes sense to keep the communication between the server and the client encrypted. This can be done by switching websites from HTTP to HTTPS, which can be done by installing the RapidSSL, Comodo SSL certificate, GeoTrust SSL, Thawte or any other SSL from a reputed CA.
3. Protect Financial Data
Most medical sites sell some products or services, which involves exchanging personal and financial data. This includes online payments made through bank accounts and cards which requires the site to comply with the PCI DSS guidelines. One of the key requirements in the PCI DSS is that any site accepting online payments must run on the HTTPS protocol. This can be achieved by installing the right SSL certificate on the website, and the choice depends on the website’s architecture. If the site uses multiple subdomains — one dedicated to payments — a wildcard SSL is recommended.
This SSL type automatically encrypts all the first-level website’s subdomains under the chosen main domain, preventing the certificate management hassles and high costs that are common when multiple single-domain SSLs are used. For instance, there is a possibility of losing a private key or an expired subdomain which leaves the site vulnerable to attacks. Such lapses can turn out to be expensive, and that’s why SSL is important for your medical website, but you need to choose the right type.
4. Generate More Business
The US telehealth market will become a 43-billion-dollar industry by 2026, which explains why you need to find ways to capture a larger market share. The easiest way to do this is by boosting your website’s credibility with an SSL from a trusted CA. So, when you buy SSL certificate, don’t compromise on this aspect because it’s adding the overall reputation of your healthcare portal.
You can take this a step forward by opting for a superior validation level like the Extended Validation (EV) which involves comprehensive verification and is ideal for larger businesses with multiple domains and IPs. Alternately, small and midsized businesses could opt for the Organizational Validation (OV) SSL, which only verifies the business’s existence. The whole idea behind this third-party validation is to act as a trust seal and instill confidence in the customer.
5. Improve your Site’s Visibility
Did you know that 53% of all website traffic comes from search engines? So, if you want your healthcare site to get more traffic, you need to optimize it for the search engines. This is where an SSL can help by activating the HTTPS, which since 2014 has been declared to be a ranking signal. As the HTTPS protocol makes the site secure, it delivers a superior user experience and is given extra brownie points compared to sites that don’t run on this protocol.
As a healthcare or medical site owner, you shoulder a greater social responsibility than those involved in other businesses like e-commerce or professional consulting. That’s because your site receives, transmits, stores, and processes data that is classified as highly confidential. You can do so only by enforcing strong encryption protocols.
Now, that explains why SSL is important for your medical site from a security standpoint, but there is much more that comes with it, like higher credibility, enhanced visibility, legal compliance, and better growth opportunities. Therefore, if your site has not yet switched from HTTP to HTTPS, then you need to hurry up before it’s too late.
Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.