Warning: Medical data breaches are on the rise

Published: September 7, 2010 by bkrenek

According to a recent study by the Identity Theft Resource Center, data breaches in the healthcare sector are occurring at a higher rate than in other industries.  The study found that of the 385 data breaches that occurred in the U.S. in the first half of 2010, 30% of those affected were healthcare providers.  In comparison, data breaches reported in banking and other financial institutions for the same time period totaled 10%.

What is the cause of this large discrepancy between industries?  According to commentary provided by eSecurity Planet, the increase may be due to the many different types of workers that have access to areas in healthcare organizations buildings where sensitive data is stored. This unrestricted access provides an opportunity for unauthorized employees to access laptops, USB drives or desktops with sensitive information from areas that are far less secure than at a bank or other financial institutions.

This sharp increase has caught the attention of the US Congress that is set to approve $1.7 billion to fight healthcare fraud. A large portion of that spend will go towards creating fraud “task forces” in up to 20 cities across the U.S. Watchdog groups and patient privacy advocates are also putting pressure on healthcare organizations to protect patient’s medical records and personal information especially as patient records become digital and are stored by third parties.

Deterring and detecting data breach threats does not happen by chance.  Now more than ever, it is important for healthcare companies to take advantage of proven data security solutions and to develop policies, like those used in other industries, to help protect patient data.