Healthcare News & Insights

The biggest cause of health information data breaches

Security breaches of health information are becoming more common, and more expensive for facilities to handle. What’s behind the recent increases in security incidents at healthcare organizations?

The frequency of data breaches in health care has increased by 32% in the past year, according to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute. Organizations studied experienced an average of four breaches each in 2011.

In total, those breaches are costing healthcare providers $6.5 billion annually.

What’s the cause of the increase in thefts of health information? Employee negligence was the biggest cause, according to the study. Among the health execs surveyed, 41% blamed employee mistakes for most breaches.

Those errors are becoming more worrisome as providers start to depend more on mobile electronic devices to store patients’ health information. While 80% of organizations use mobile devices that hold patient data, half of them do nothing to protect those devices.

That could explain why 49% of breaches were blamed on lost or stolen computing devices, according to the study.

Organizations are struggling to prevent those mistakes, though they are trying — 83% of the organizations surveyed have clearly written policies to protect data, but 57% don’t believe their policies are effective.

One tactic that could have some impact is training employees on why those policies matter — 42% of execs said administrative staff doesn’t understand the importance of protecting patient data.

Ponemon also recommends organizations review the contracts and agreements they have with third parties. Those vendors and providers are a growing cause of data breaches as well, so providers must take steps to ensure patient data is safe when it’s in house as well as when it’s held by other organizations.

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