Everyone wants to believe that his health records are secure. They store more than medical history. Names, birth dates, addresses and social security numbers are all a part of each patient’s complete medical record. It’s unfortunate, but quite often, that information, when stored at a small health care facility, ends up in unscrupulous hands.
A 2011 survey by the Ponemon Institute of more than 700 information technology and administrative professionals revealed that small heath care facilities such as doctors’ and dentists’ offices, health clinics, home health care services and nursing care facilities often suffer data security breaches.
In fact, 91% of the survey respondents said that their facilities, which employed 250 people or fewer, had experienced at least one security breach, and 23% said that their organizations had experienced at least one instance in which a patient’s identity had been stolen.
A large number of these facilities, Ponemon discovered, still maintain patient health records on paper. But there’s more to switching from paper to electronic records than simply taking the time to transfer the data, and moving to the cloud isn’t free.
Forty-eight per cent of respondents said that less than 10% of their organizations’ budgets went to fund data security technologies. According to 74% of respondents, the greatest barrier to providing better data protection was lack of clinician support. Lack of funds (71%) and unnecessary compliance burden (63%) rounded out the top three inhibitors to improved data security measures. Despite that, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believed that their organizations took appropriate steps to protect patient privacy and more than half said they believed that their organizations took appropriate steps to comply with HIPAA and other health related regulations.
One might naturally assume that large health care facilities are more vulnerable to attack than smaller ones. Not so. Small health organizations provide the unscrupulous with numerous, less carefully guarded targets. As the Ponemon survey revealed, the weaknesses in the data security of small health organizations get exploited more often than patients or their health providers might want to imagine.
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