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4/24/2010
08:48 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
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How Well Do Hospitals Protect Your Data? Abysmally

A just released survey of about 200 compliance executives in hospitals from around the country shows that data breaches and medical identity theft continue to soar.

A just released survey of about 200 compliance executives in hospitals from around the country shows that data breaches and medical identity theft continue to soar.While these survey results are from a vendor that sells identity protection services - and they have a vested interest in painting as bad a picture as possible. However, if the survey results are halfway on target we've witnessed what had been a significant problem become an abysmal failure when it comes to hospitals protecting patient information.

Consider these results from the survey, Spring 2010 National Survey of Hospital Compliance Executives:

PROBLEMS ARE WORSENING DESPITE MAJOR REGULATORY EFFORTS 41.5% of hospitals have TEN OR MORE data breaches each year - a 120.7% increase over last year's survey. Currently, over 20% percent of hospitals have twenty or more breaches annually.

INSIDERS NOT OPTIMISTIC HEALTHCARE REFORM WILL HELP 56.3% of hospital compliance officers believe that the new health care reform law will either have no change or will increase medical identity theft at their institutions.

INVESTIGATION OF FRAUD IS SURPRISINGLY LOW Despite the fact that medical identity theft is the fastest growing form of identity fraud, 71.4% of hospitals on average investigate fewer than 50 cases of possible misuse of identity annually, and over 34% still do not keep good patient ID records.

TIMELINESS OF COMPLIANCE IS POOR To date, only 15.7% of hospitals feel they are in compliance with the HITECH Act, which went into effect in February 2010. This lack of compliance mirrors last year's slow compliance efforts regarding the FTC's Red Flags Rule.

SECURITY OF THIRD PARTIES IS AN UNKNOWN 48.3% of hospitals do not know if their vendors and business associates are in compliance with the HITECH Act.

There's little to feel good about in those unhealthy survey findings. It's apparently more common than not for a hospital to have 10 or more data breaches each year and more than half of compliance officers believe that current reforms underway will either have no impact or actually increase medical identity theft at their organizations.

The unfortunate thing here is that, unlike most industries, the health care industry had a jump start in IT security and privacy challenges with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Too bad both the health care industry and regulators failed at getting it right - and there's no viable fix on the horizon.

The survey, conducted by IdentityForce, is available here.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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