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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Healthcare digitization puts emphasis on data security

Security is more important than ever as health providers embark on the road to digitize medical records

Category:   Secure File Transfer

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The healthcare industry is moving full-steam ahead with the digitization of medical records. This transition is expected to help organizations make major strides in terms of keeping track of patient information, which has relied heavily on paper documents in the past. However, security is more important than ever as health providers embark on this necessary and complicated journey.

The digitization of medical records will make healthcare content even more accessible to doctors and nurses, but also more readily available to potential exposure. For example, a physician may be inclined to look up test results in his or her home after hours to provide a quick update to a patient. If the doctor is using consumer-grade file sharing options, which lack the necessary protection needed to keep sensitive data safe, that individual could put the hospital's entire network at risk if a hacker accesses this information.

A healthcare provider that fails to keep patient records in-house will experience hefty compliance fines and public distrust. Rather than risk having staff members potentially expose such important information, hospitals should use secure file sharing tools so any data being sent, received or stored is safeguarded against malicious activity or inadvertent exposure.

Healthcare industry's security is failing
A study by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of Experian Data Breach Resolution found that 94 percent of healthcare organizations have suffered a data breach in the past two years. Michael Bruemmer, vice president at Experian, asserted that something must change, American Medical News reported. In the first quarter of 2013, 875,000 healthcare records were exposed because of breaches.

"We are off to another year of significant healthcare breaches just based on the last 12 months trending and data from this survey," Bruemmer said, according to the news source.

What may be more troubling is the fact that nearly 40 percent of healthcare organizations do not have a response plan to address a breach, American Medical News reported.

Healthcare providers that want to minimize the likelihood of a breach can take certain steps to avoid being the latest victim of such incidents. Regardless of the file sharing program selected, organizations must always ensure that personnel receive the right training on how to use these solutions. In many cases, staff members are the root cause of data exposure because they inadvertently commit errors using these systems.

Once a file sharing program is in place, healthcare providers should not become comfortable because upgrades are always required. Even the most advanced solutions can become vulnerable over time if they are not supported. Also, industry trends may dictate that past security policies are no longer acceptable, so having current tools is essential for any health providers.

There is no denying that the transition to digital medical records will greatly benefit the entire healthcare industry. However, the excitement over this development should not take away from the dedication to security that will be required to keep patient records and other information out of harm's way.