Patient data still insecure in post-HITECH world

by jameswester on November 10, 2010

A new study released by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy and information management research firm, and ID Experts, a provider of data security solutions, finds that patient data in healthcare organizations is hardly secure, with the average organization experiencing nearly two and half breaches per year.
Some of the surprising results in the report include:
  • Seventy percent of surveyed hospitals stated that protecting patient data is not a top priority.
  • A majority of organizations have less than two staff dedicated to data protection management (67 percent).
  • A majority of survey respondents also do not believe that the HITECH Act has changed the management of patient data in any significant manner.
According to the report, factors contributing to data breaches are unintentional employee action, lost or stolen computers and errors by third parties. Additionally, the report says breaches of patient data cost healthcare organizations almost $6 billion a year. The information provided in the report is especially troubling given the passage of the HITECH Act last year which called for expanded protections of patient data under HIPAA.
In a statement released with the report, Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute said, “Our research shows that the healthcare industry is struggling to protect sensitive medical information, putting patients at risk of medical identity fraud and costing hospitals and other healthcare services companies millions in annual breach-related costs.”

Dr. Ponemon went on to say, “(O)ne would hope to see that healthcare organizations have improved information security practices and come into compliance with HITECH.” Instead, said Dr Ponemon, “(W)e found enormous vulnerabilities.”

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