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Friday, March 22, 2013

Vast majority of healthcare firms suffered data breaches in recent years

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Data protection, a critical issue for firms of all kinds, is of particular importance to organizations that operate in sectors which regularly deal with highly sensitive information. Financial firms, for example, face a much greater need for data protection tools and strategies than most retailers.

Healthcare institutions have a similar level of responsibility. Hospitals, private practices and other providers must collect a tremendous amount of information concerning patients' medical, financial and other personal data. Consequently, such organizations must take steps to reduce the likelihood of experiencing data breaches. For example, firms should consider investing in high-grade secure file sharing tools and devote the necessary training time to personnel.

Unfortunately, as the Ponemon Institute's "Annual Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy & Data Security" highlighted, the vast majority of healthcare institutions have experienced data breaches in recent years, suggesting that better resources and strategies are needed to protect patient information.

Troubling trends
The report surveyed 80 healthcare organizations and found that 94 percent of participants had experienced at least one data breach in the past two years. Nearly half of these organizations fell victim to five or more significant data breaches in this time.

The study found that the average data breach saw the loss or theft of more than 2,700 records. The average price of these incidents for participating organizations was $2.4 million.

The participating healthcare institutions identified many causes of data breaches. The three most commonly cited reasons for these occurrences were lost or stolen computing devices, employee mistakes or unintentional actions and third-party errors.

Perhaps most troubling, half of respondents indicated they had little or no confidence that they are capable of detecting all patient data loss or theft incidents.

Improving security
This report demonstrates the heightened need for both better technology and better protocols for protecting client data in the healthcare world. One of the greatest technological innovations in this industry in recent years is the rise of digital information, such as electronic health records (EHRs). These allow for the fast, easy dissemination of invaluable patient data. However, hospitals without the right tools and processes will be at risk of exposing this digital information when sending and receiving files.

Secure managed file transfer solutions can help. High-grade MFT software can ensure that medical records are protected at all times and, critically, are easy to use. This greatly reduces the risk of inadvertent employee error leading to a data breach.