Healthcare Data Breaches: Are Hackers the Only Reason?

yay-5256236Healthcare data breaches in 2016 have surely raised the eyebrows of everyone in healthcare. In addition to being a nightmare for insurance providers, it is also nothing less than that for patients.

In fact, it could be an early sign of a looming danger. The consequences of failing health information security could do harm that is beyond the realm of imagination.

To put it simply, hackers hack for money, fame, or both. They are the first to cross our minds when we hear news of data security breach. But are they the sole cause of the sheer data loss in recent years?

In this article, we take a closer look at the stats of healthcare data breaches in 2016. Furthermore, we will take a deeper dive to explore the reasons for a security breach.

2016 US Healthcare Data Breaches: A Forgettable Year but An Unforgettable Experience

According to HIPAA Journal, Banner Health, Newkirk Products, Inc., and 21st Century Oncology lost a cumulative of more than 9 million patient records in 2016. This accounted for 33% of the total data loss. While the loss was far lower than that in the earlier year, the incidence of breaches almost doubled.

Notably, data breaches in healthcare totaled over 112 million records in 2015. Provider Anthem was the top target with the loss of 80 million records. This dramatic drop in the number of the lost records in no way indicates any improvement in health information security. In fact, what is of greater concern is the twofold increase in the occurrence of breaches.

If we put aside Anthem’s lost data, there is not much difference in the number of the breaches. Mathematically, it is (112-80=42 million) in 2015 and 27 million in 2016. Healthcare data breaches cost theUS economy an estimated $6 billion per year.

Considering widespread use of internet-connected healthcare devices, the trend of loss can only surge. This is when we do not implement preventive security measures.

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Hackers Are Not Only the Reason for Ailing Healthcare Security

When you hear of a cyber attack in any sector, it is very normal for most of us to blame the hackers. Understandably, they are the most obvious scapegoat for the faults that can have devastating results.

Understandably, healthcare fraud and identity theft are the two most lucrative reasons why the hackers are demolishing the walls of health information security.

Let’s look at the different side of the story.

According to a report by Protenus, almost 90% of the total events resulted due to human error. This leaves the space for wrongdoings at a mere 10%.

It’s high time we ask ourselves a few questions of paramount importance.

How have the security officials played their part? 

Is there a role of human error?

How have patients assured they are safe?

Are we properly trained to implement the software updates?

How do intentional wrongdoing affect the numbers? 

If you know someone is eyeing your data, what steps would you take to keep them safe?

Obviously, to answer these questions, it takes a lot of courage. Also, it takes some time to realize that health information security is everyone’s concern. We can expect a safer haven when each link in the chain is strong.

Once we have a clear understanding of our weaknesses, we can formulate strategies to safeguard ourselves. After all, ensuring safety is arguably the best preventive approach.

A Glance atthe Role Of HIPAA

HIPAA, an acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, has set the standard for health information security. Nonetheless, its role as a guardian of PHI (Personal Health Information) comes under frequent criticism. Critics say HIPAA activities are too weak to control the many problems in health information security.

For this reason, many experts call it a toothless tiger. Well, it might be too early or not the best idea to address a national level watchdog.

One way HIPAA could make its efforts more noticeable is to include more stringent criteria for the certification. In addition, wider coverage of HIPAA training could provide much more enhanced safety within all types of healthcare environments.

The Solution

Healthcare cyber security is more than just protection of information. It is also about how we can protect patients from the loss of privacy. The future of healthcare relies largely on how we respond to the increasing events of breaches. Experts believe the rising amount of healthcare security breaches is awake-up call for the entire industry.

The events of healthcare data breaches have unearthed the value of training the patients on how to adopt the safety measures. As a matter of fact, strong security systems alone will not guarantee a total protection. Patients should also learn about how to keep their information as secure as possible.

Explore the vulnerabilities and weak links in the system to ensure vital patient information is not lost at the hands of hackers or insiders. Next is to anticipate an attack before it actually happens.

Finally, encrypting patient health information is the key to preventing loss of health information.

Want to Know More?

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