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11/9/2010
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Identity Theft Reported By 33% Of Healthcare Organizations

Medical practices lag behind hospitals in nearly every measure of health IT implementation and security, reports HIMSS survey.

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A Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) survey has revealed that 33% of respondents said their organization has had at least one known case of medical identity theft, and that some cases may never be reported.

In addition, only 17% of respondents working for medical practices said they were likely to report an instance of medical identity theft, compared to 38% of those working for a hospital.

These results come from the 2010 HIMSS Security Survey, a report sponsored by Intel and supported by the Medical Group Management Association. The report, published last week, interviewed 272 IT and security professionals at hospitals and medical practices about their readiness for the risks and security challenges they face as their healthcare organizations increasingly use digitized medical records.

The survey also showed that 75% of all respondents stated they perform a risk assessment at their organization, similar to the findings of HIMSS' 2009 survey. However, this year's survey includes a greater representation of medical practices, where 33% report that they do not conduct a risk analysis, compared to only 14% of those who work at a hospital.

The report emphasized that eligible hospitals and professionals seeking to qualify for reimbursements under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs must meet meaningful use criteria that not only requires organizations to conduct a risk analysis, but also mandates that they correct all deficiencies identified.

"Without undergoing this process and then using the outcomes to change use of controls and modifications within policies and procedures, organizations will not qualify for the meaningful use incentives. At present, one-quarter of the sample population would not qualify for meaningful use as a result of this area," the report said.

Further highlights of the report include:

-- Hospital workers were more likely to report they had a chief security officer or chief information security officer in place, compared to those working in a medical practice. In fact, 17% of respondents working for medical practices indicated that they handled the security function exclusively by using external resources. None of the respondents from hospitals reported using external resources exclusively.

-- More than half of respondents from hospital organizations reported using two or more types of controls to manage data access, compared to 40% of respondents from medical practices.

-- Almost all of the respondents reported their organization actively works to determine the cause of security breaches, with two-thirds having a plan in place to respond to these threats. However, respondents from hospital organizations were more likely to report they worked to determine the cause of security breaches than respondents in medical practices.

-- About 85% of respondents said that their organization shares patient data in an electronic format. However, 83% of hospital respondents said they'll likely share more data in the future, compared to 77% of their medical practice counterparts.

-- Mobile device encryption, e-mail encryption and single sign-on were most frequently identified by respondents as technologies not currently used at their organizations, but were planned for future implementation. Of those not currently using these technologies, hospitals said they are more likely than medical practices to say they'll install them in the future.

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