Healthcare News & Insights

Top 3 causes of healthcare data breaches

Data breaches affecting patient information declined in 2012 – however, there’s still a lot of work to be done. What are biggest IT security areas healthcare organizations should focus on in 2013? 

IT security firm Redspin analyzed data from 538 breaches that triggered a notification requirement under the HITECH Act. The good news: The number and scope of healthcare data breaches declined significantly in 2012, according to Redspin.

Compared to the previous year, the number of patients affected who had their medical records breached dropped by a whopping 77% in 2012. Much of that drop was due to a decline in the number of very large healthcare data breaches, which declined 21%.

While those are encouraging signs, data breaches are still a big problem in health care, and in 2012, more than 2.4 million patients had records breach in 146 incidents investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

These were the biggest factors that led to those breaches:

  • Third-party vendors — “Business associates” with access to patients’ sensitive information were involved in more than half (57%) of all the breaches investigated last year. Healthcare organizations must pay close attention to security concerns as they choose vendors, especially cloud computing vendors that will store sensitive data.
  • Unencrypted laptops and mobile devices — Data is often breached when a portable computing device holding patient data is lost or stolen. That was the root cause of 38% of 2012’s healthcare data breaches, according to Redspin. And often, that happens because an employee takes an unencrypted device off the premises in violation of the organization’s policy.
  • Electronic health records — While EHR systems aren’t being attacked at a high rate, Redspin warns that will change as electronic records become more common. To protect patients, organizations should make security a key factor when choosing and implementing an EHR system.


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