Forward Into the Breach: Private Practice and Data Security


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healthcare particulars with others in person and on-line, asking everyone they know for advice and joining on-line support groups where data security is an afterthought at best. On the other hand, people who fear reprisals from employers if their health status became widely known go to great lengths to keep their information secure. I think the truth of the matter is that some people care a lot about this issue and some people don’t and those people may switch categories depending on circumstances. No doubt this issue is highly correlated with the seriousness of one’s healthcare condition. If your only problem is hangnails, who cares if the neighbors know? If you have a life-threatening or job-threatening condition you’re steering a wide berth from the virtual water-cooler.

In this day and age of ever-increasing digitization of our healthcare data, it is important to remember who owns all that healthcare data that resides electronically, namely the providers from whom we get our care. It’s kind of like your house. You may say it’s yours, but for about 30 years it really belongs to the bank, no matter what name you stick on the mailbox. So if that’s the case, what we consumers really have to worry about is how well our providers guard our data, right? Well, you may as well put your medical record in the status bar of your Facebook page because, frankly Scarlet, they don’t give a damn.

There was a report recently released from a company called ID Experts working in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute, a well-known research center dedicated to privacy, data protection, and information security policy. The report, entitled Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security, found that data breaches at U.S. healthcare organizations cost providers more than $6 billion a year as a result of employee actions, third-party error, and lost or stolen devices. Moreover, the nation’s largest healthcare organizations aren’t working that hard to solve the problem.

In fact, according to the study, most aren’t even making patient privacy and data security a priority. In the press release about this study it was noted that 70 percent of hospitals said that protecting patient data is not a top priority and 67 percent reported having less than two staff members dedicated to data protection management. 58 percent of respondents said they have “little or no confidence” in their ability to adequately protect patient records and 71percent admitted they have inadequate resources to implement the technology and procedures required to lockdown millions of individual patient files. “Well,” as Dana Carvey’s Church Lady would say, “isn’t that special?”

The Ponemon study further found that … Next Page »

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