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Vulnerabilities / Threats

11/18/2009
01:26 PM
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Survey: Patient Data At Risk From Healthcare Partners

About a third of healthcare business associates are not aware they needed to comply with HIPAA's security and privacy provisions

Companies that do business with healthcare providers, including accounting firms and offshore transcription vendors, are unprepared to meet data breach obligations included in new federal regulation, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics, commissioned by security vendor ID Experts, looked at preparedness for healthcare providers business partners, such as billing, credit bureaus, benefits management, legal services, claims processing, insurance brokers, data processing firms, pharmacy chains, and temporary office personnel providers.

The survey gauged the readiness of companies to comply with the security provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, a component of the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

About a third of business associates were not aware they needed to comply with security and privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). By comparison, 87% of health providers are aware.

"Despite an increase in risk assessments conducted, data breach is on the rise and patients are at a high risk level for medical identity theft and fraud where an unknown person will use an identity to illegally receive benefits or services," said Bob Gregg, CEO of ID Experts, in a statement.

"Business associates could represent a risk to healthcare organizations, especially hospitals," said Lisa Gallagher, senior director for privacy and security for HIMSS, in a statement. "The lack of awareness of new federal regulations by business associates coupled with the large number of third parties hired by hospitals to control costs through outsourcing, points to a potential area of concern. Hospitals, in partnership with their business associates, need to actively prepare to comply with the new rules when these breaches happen."

Other findings of the survey:

  • 85% of health providers say they'll take steps to protect data held by business associates.

  • Some 47% of hospitals say they'll terminate contracts with business associates for violations.

  • Some 50% of big hospitals had at least one data breach this year.

  • Some 68% of all hospitals said HITECH's expanded breach notification requirements will lead to discovery and reporting of more incidents. Some 57% said they now have a greater level of awareness of dataw breaches and breach risk.

  • Some 90% said they've already changed, or plan to change policies and procedures to prevent and detect data breaches.

    The full survey is available on the ID Experts Web site.

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