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Most Small Healthcare Practices Hacked In The Past 12 Months

Nearly 30 percent say breaches resulted in medical identity theft, new Ponemon report finds
If you were wondering how safe your medical records are at your doctor's office, then this might make you sick: Ninety-one percent of small healthcare practices in North America say they have suffered a data breach in the past 12 months.

The survey, conducted by the Ponemon Institute and commissioned by MegaPath, queried more than 700 IT and administrative personnel in healthcare organizations of no more than 250 employees.

Among the findings: Only 31 percent say their management considers data security and privacy a top priority, and 29 percent say their breaches resulted in medical identity theft. "Cybercriminals are hunting for medical records," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute. "The most serious issue is just the complacency small healthcare providers seem to exhibit with respect to securing patient records."

Around 70 percent say their organizations don't have -- or they don't know if they have -- enough budget to meet risk management, compliance, and governance requirements. In more than one-third of the practices, there's no one responsible for overall patient data protection. And budgets are tight: About half say that less than 10 percent of their IT budget goes to data security tools.

Ponemon said a majority say their healthcare organizations are taking the right steps to comply with HIPAA, however.

Mobile devices are rampant in small healthcare organizations: Nearly 75 percent say they are permitted to access business or clinical applications via their laptops, netbooks, smartphones, and tablets. More than half say they use these devices at work; forty-eight percent have proper use policies for these devices, and 45 percent don't do anything to secure the devices.

"Their [continued] orientation to paper files, ad hoc use of mobile technologies ... just creates an environment that's a perfect storm for data loss and theft," Ponemon said.

The Data Security in Small Healthcare Organizations report is available for download here.

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