May 17, 2020

4 Ways to Finish Your Medical Residency Without Falling Further into Debt

3 min
Although 25 percent of residents have no debt, over a third (36 percent) still owe more than $200,000 after five years in residency, according to Medscape.
Upon graduating from medical school, most students have already accrued a significant amount of student loan debt. Entering into residency, one of the p...

Upon graduating from medical school, most students have already accrued a significant amount of student loan debt. Entering into residency, one of the primary concerns students have is incurring even more debt.

“What I see at the end of residency is just a need for cash – almost always,” said Chris Long, who specializes in financial planning for physicians. “Whether it’s preparing for boards, wanting to take a little time off before practice, relocation, all sorts of things … If you don’t have a plan to accumulate some savings or have a savings target by the end of residency, you’ll probably go further into debt.”

In order to combat this, Long established four ways residents can avoid accruing more debt who also don’t have the time to micromanage a complicated budget.

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1. Understand your cash flow using a monthly budget.

Instead of using online budgeting tools or apps, Long recommends a simple spreadsheet program such as Excel. Three things to list are your monthly take-home pay, fixed expenses and savings. BE sure to budget for things such as car, home maintenance and clothing. Always aim for a slight surplus at the end of each month.

2. Establish separate accounts to keep track of your spending and saving.

Long advises setting up two checking accounts and one savings account. From your budget worksheet, subtotal amounts for savings, discretionary and fixed expenses. When you get paid, pay yourself first by putting an allocated amount of money into savings. Then transfer your allocated discretionary amount into your discretionary checking account. Leave the rest in the other checking account. Many residency programs will allow you to split your direct deposit into multiple accounts.

The discretionary account should be your variable expense account, or what you use for groceries and the “fun expenses,” says Long. It is helpful to use a debit card linked to an online bank account so you can quickly see how much you have in this account, adds Long. Monitor your discretionary account balance and make spending decisions based on this balance until you get paid again. Don’t take from the surplus in your primary account or savings and avoid using credit cards.

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3. Use your other checking account for your “fixed” expenses and bills.

Surplus should build up in this account over time for things like car or house maintenance, clothing and seasonal variations in utility bills. According to Long, the idea is to avoid using credit cards and invading savings for these expenses when they occur.

4. Don’t rush to start investing.

If you don’t have a surplus at the end of each month without investments, then it is probably not wise to invest at this time. Start with managing your cash flow and then move into learning about investments.

“The first step always should be to create a budget that allows you to have some savings,” said Long. “People tend to underestimate how much they spend on eating out, groceries and these sorts of things. If they can actually save their target without dipping into their savings, then they can start discussing what they have access to in terms of IRAs and 401ks.”

Sourced from the American Medical Association.  

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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