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12/6/2012
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Patient Data Breaches: Future Looks Grim

Inadequate security funding, tools and expertise could cost healthcare industry billions of dollars annually, finds Ponemon/ID Expert's third annual study.

5 Tools Connect Patients To Their Healthcare
5 Tools Connect Patients To Their Healthcare
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A majority of organizations polled for Ponemon and ID Expert's third annual benchmark study on privacy and security don't have the technologies, resources and trained personnel in place to take on modern-day privacy and data security risks.

Since beginning the benchmarking in 2010, Ponemon and ID Experts have found that threats to healthcare organizations have increased. The organizational costs for dealing with breaches are climbing as well, with the average price tag increasing from $2.1 million in 2010 to $2.4 million in 2012. The report projects that eventually the annual cost of continuous breaches for the industry "could potentially be as high as $7 billion."

Of the organizations participating in the study, 46% are part of a healthcare network, 36% part of an integrated delivery system, and 18% are standalone hospitals or clinics. This year, the study engaged 80 organizations and conducted 324 interviews. Respondents participating in the study were from all areas of an organization, including security, administration, privacy, compliance, finance and clinical.

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"… [T]hings aren't getting better -- they're getting worse in some respects," said Larry Ponemon, M.D., chairman and founder of independent research organization the Ponemon Institute, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "Almost every hospital [surveyed] suffered one data breach, and 45% suffered more than five over the past two years." Additionally, 54% of respondents admitted they don't have the confidence in their ability to detect all patient data losses.

Other key findings: Hospitals are waking up to the fact that medical billing and insurance information is increasingly at risk. In fact, more than half of the organizations surveyed reported medical identity theft, "which has been around for ages, but some hospitals haven't realized it's a big problem," said Ponemon. Additionally, IT is playing a significant role in the rise of data breaches, particularly with the onslaught of BYOD programs and mobile device usage.

According to the study, 81% of organizations permit employees to use their own mobile devices to access patient information, but 46% admit to "doing nothing at all to ensure BYOD is secure," said Ponemon. "54% express no confidence or low-level confidence that these devices are secure." Breaches due to lost or stolen devices such as phones or tablets accounted for 7% of breaches last year, added Ponemon. This year? "They accounted for 18%," he said.

Rick Kam, CEO at data breach consulting firm ID Experts, said in an interview that the study highlights three key areas that IT execs need to address.

First, "[IT professionals] are doing what they've done in years past: the same policies and procedures, and … they're looking at this problem on a catastrophic basis, as opposed to something that happens on a daily basis."

Instead, professionals need to take daily steps to prepare for a breach if and when one does occur. "They need to take the appropriate level of investments to protect and then respond to a breach when it happens," he said. Second, Kam said 95% of organizations recognize the negative impact that medical billing breaches have on patients, but 74% of organizations don't offer monitoring or support services of any kind to individuals whose information has been breached.

Last, Kam said he and his team recommend organizations form an incident response plan. But what's different from years past, he said, is that larger enterprises have hundreds or even thousands of business associates they exchange information with, whether through the cloud, email, and even medical devices. "When an organization does an incident response plan, they need to ensure their partners are part of that plan," he said. "[Partners] need to play a role in the plan and become part of the solution."

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)

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jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2012 | 7:49:01 PM
re: Patient Data Breaches: Future Looks Grim
As time goes on, IGÇÖm sure a solution will emerge to help secure patient data, reduce breaches and lower the cost of complying with those breaches; although I doubt itGÇÖll be foolproof. With so many people having access to data through so many devices, and even remotely requiring access because of office locations or physicians reviewing charts from home itGÇÖs unlikely that data breaches will be preventable.

Jay Simmons Information
Week Contributor
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