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11/9/2009
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Healthcare Providers Face Security Challenges

Three-quarters of organizations that conduct formal risk assessments have found patient data at risk, study says.

Many healthcare organizations are unprepared for new federal regulations and other security challenges, according to a study. Security budgets are low, organizations don't have response plans for threats or a security breach, and a designated chief security officer isn't in place.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provisions of the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 includes new regulations for maintaining privacy and security of patient health data, but healthcare providers aren't ready, according to the results of the 2009 Security Survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, sponsored by Symantec.

The survey, which questioned healthcare IT and security professionals, found that three quarters of organizations that conduct formal risk assessments found patient data at risk due to inadequate security controls, policies, and processes.

Three-quarters of surveyed organizations conduct formal risk analyses, but only half of those do so on a yearly basis or more frequently. The figure has remained the same in the past year. "Conducting this analysis positions organizations to identify gaps in their security controls and/or policies and procedures," HIMSS said.

"One-third of respondents reported that their organization has had at least one known case of medical identity theft at their organization. Only a handful of these organizations, however, has experienced direct consequences from the breach," HIMSS said.

Healthcare organizations aren't using current security technologies, the study found. Respondents widely use logs from firewalls, applications, and servers as information sources, yet only 25% of respondents reported electronic analysis of the data. While respondents use firewalls and user access controls, only 67% of responding organizations use encryption, and half encrypt stored data.

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