According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, nearly 90% of healthcare organizations suffer data breaches. Internal threats such as mistakes—unintentional employee actions, stolen computing devices—account for nearly half of the data breaches. This statistic certainly serves to show the staggering problems around data loss in the healthcare industry. While the scale of the problem, and therefore the solutions to it, may seem incredibly vast, there are actually strategies healthcare organizations should be implementing in order to combat this high-risk situation.
Why is theft, or loss with malicious intent, so high?
Firstly, medical records can fetch up to 50 times that of credit card records on the black market. While that may seem far-fetched, it’s surprisingly not, given the amount of credibility medical records hold when it comes to identification. Criminals can easily use medical records to fraudulently bill insurance companies, obtain prescription medicine, in addition to other identity theft practices.
The move to digital and the losses that come with it
The digitization of medical records has been seen as a long overdue step by the medical community to reduce mounting hospital administration and provide patients with more reliable diagnoses and care. Proper due diligence isn’t being paid when it comes to data loss protection for a variety of reasons, budgeting, outdated technology and lack of knowledge among them. As a result, breaches into healthcare systems are becoming more and more commonplace, particularly as online criminals become more skillful, as well as hospital staff accidentally releasing sensitive patient information.
The problem areas
Data loss is considered to be one of the most commonplace ways for healthcare organizations to lose a patient’s medical files. The main problem areas include criminal attack, a stolen computing device, unintentional employee action and technical glitches in the system.
The root problem
At the root of these problems are outdated legacy systems and medical devices and poor training in data loss protection. Healthcare organizations have an extremely unique set of challenges when it comes to digitized information. Particularly for hospitals, the scale at which they work, is huge. The number of individuals who have files stored on their systems, as well as the number of medical professionals who are not highly skilled in computer literacy, is vast. Combine this with computer systems that need updating and a lack of budget to do so, and it is easy to see why data loss is so prevalent in the healthcare industry.
The solution to the problem can be simplified into two parts – update computer systems so that strong security measures can be put in place, and implement a data loss prevention strategy across the organization. The first solution requires budget, but it is imperative that this is prioritized. Ransomware and malware are becoming an increasingly prevalent, malicious, and ruthless way of obtaining data. Trends suggest that it will become even more of an issue in coming years and the only way to combat it is through state of the art security measures.
A data loss prevention strategy, while still costly, especially if implementing on a large scale, is more of an upfront cost and a slow burn investment. For healthcare organizations, a data loss prevention strategy is an incredibly cost-effective way to protect against data loss as much of it involves staff onboarding and communication in order to make it work. Of course, software systems need to be installed to protect files, but much of the hard work comes from ensuring that all staff understand what they need to be doing in order to avoid the inadvertent leakage of sensitive information.
With just a quick online search, you can see the mounting concern about protecting patient data in the healthcare industry, and the ever-growing and alarming statistics about how much data is currently being compromised. Healthcare organizations need to reprioritize budget in order to implement easy and effective solutions like state-of-the-art security, and a data loss prevention strategy that has buy-in from staff working both in hospitals and medical centers on network devices, and remotely on mobile.