Healthcare News & Insights

Data breaches: Lessons to learn from Target

Studying what Target did wrong during it’s recent data breach, and learning how to properly respond is a good idea for hospital executives and administrators.

176217553Reason: Due to the stricter standards put in place by new privacy regs last September, data breaches involving patients’ protected health information (PHI) are expected to rise this year.

Best response

Here are four lessons your hospital can learn from Target’s troubles, from Forbes magazine:

1. Tell patients what happened ASAP.

Target waited days to inform its customers about the breach, which allowed rumors to spread. It’s best to ’fess up right away so you can control how your patients find out about the breach – and earn their respect for being up front. While any breach of PHI is bad, controlling the release of that information and what your facility plans to do about it casts your facility in the role of the hero, instead of the villain, like Target.

2. Be ready to fully address their concerns.

Initially, angry customers  were left unanswered by Target. To keep patients in the loop about a breach, it may be helpful to put together a reference list of common questions they may have, complete with your answers. You should also show your patients step-by-step plan detailing how you’ll handle the breach. By doing this your patients will believe you care about them and their PHI, and remain loyal.

Hospitals that don’t address patients’ concerns may take a big hit. Why would unhappy patients go back to a facility that didn’t value them and their PHI? Plus, unhappy patients are likely to badmouth that facility to their friends.

3. Invest in technology to prevent further problems.

While Target’s security measures are limited by current credit card processing technology, hospitals have many resources at their disposal to decrease the risk of a breach, including data encryption. Talk with your software vendor about the best security options.

4. Rebuilding trust is an uphill climb.

Target is now in an all-out blitz to regain their customers’ trust. And you’d better believe that is a campaign that is coming with a hefty price tag. Not to mention the fact that a number of lawsuits are bound to come out of this.

What hospitals can learn from this is a security crisis can very quickly turn into so much more if that crisis affects the trust and loyalty of their customers. Better to head the crisis off at the pass, than to wait and see how it pans out.


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