Security of the utmost importance for health care

The health care industry is digitizing electronic health records (EHRs) to not only improve organizations' efficiency, but how they administer care to patients. The ability to share data digitally holds immense potential for doctors, nurses, clinicians and other professionals in the field to send and receive content quickly and effectively.

Although this development is great on one hand, it is also dangerous because patient data and other sensitive information are even more at risk of being stolen, exposed or accessed by malicious parties. As a result, security must be a top priority for any medical organization today and for the foreseeable future.

Secure file sharing tools are one way to make sure staff members keep patient records and organizational data safe from harm. These solutions ensure that information being sent between staff members or at rest will be safeguarded so organizations do not inadvertently experience a security breach. 

Such incidents are especially dangerous for health care providers because the medical field includes strict compliance guidelines. Providers that expose information can receive hefty fines and public distrust if they cannot keep data protected at all times.

The cost of a data breach

Since September 2009, nearly 500 data breaches that have affected more than 500 people have been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). Overall, 21.1 million records were exposed in these incidents, with the average exceeding 40,000 per event. The average cost of each totaled approximately $8.3 million.

What is perhaps even more troubling is the fact that HSS said it took providers an average of 85 days to even identify that a breach had even taken place. Organizations then spent another 68 days to notify those who were affected by the incident.

HSS also found that a quarter of all security breaches measured occurred through laptops, followed by paper records, mobile media, desktops, network servers and system applications. In terms of the number of records exposed, 51 percent happened because of mobile media.

This last point is especially important for health care providers to think about, since many employees are using tablets and other mobile devices in the workplace. If staff members accidentally send information to the wrong recipient or leave these products in an unsafe location, the likelihood of exposure goes up exponentially.

Rather than spend more than five months identifying a breach and notifying victims of said events, health care providers should do all they can to prevent incidents in the first place. The best offense for safeguarding patient records and medical data is a strong defense. Secure file sharing tools can help providers minimize risks while ensuring that personnel have access to user-friendly solutions.

Once such options are in place, health care organizations must regularly check the reliability and accuracy of these tools to keep pace with the ever-changing threat landscape. Failing to do so may not only result in millions of dollars in losses, but also uneasy and skeptical patients.