Thursday, May 30, 2013
Healthcare data breaches demand immediate improvements
The past few years have seen a huge increase in the number of healthcare providers that have fallen victim to data breaches. Hundreds of organizations, from major hospitals to small private practices, have experienced such events, often with devastating consequences. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to effectively protect patients' sensitive information, and failure to do so has resulted in millions of dollars in fines.
Whenever a healthcare provider experiences a data breach, there is obviously a heightened level of awareness concerning the risks of insufficient data protection among the organization's decision-makers. Unfortunately, however, many firms struggle when it comes to actually making significant improvements that may curb the likelihood of future breaches.
For example, a healthcare organization based in Jackson, Florida, that experienced a 566-patient data breach in December recently fell victim to another breach, this one exposing more than 1,400 patients' data. This is hardly a unique occurrence: Many hospitals and other care providers have experienced multiple data breaches.
For any firm that has had a data breach in recent months, it is imperative to take immediate steps to improve the quality of its data protection strategies. This includes two major components. First and foremost, care providers should upgrade their secure file sharing tools. Only advanced, robust data protection solutions can effectively ensure the integrity of healthcare information as it is sent between personnel within a given organization.
Additionally, firms should take the time to thoroughly educate employees of best practices when it comes to handling patient information. Many data breaches are the direct result of employee errors which could be avoided with better training. Following a data breach, a refresher course on data protection practices should be mandatory.