Health record breaches continue to rise, says study

Medical records need to be especially guarded against in the modern health IT landscape.

Information from a study that recently appeared in the Journal of American Medical Association seems to point towards an increase in medical records breaches. According to the researchers, led by Dr. Vincent Liu of Kaiser Permanente, the amount of breaches observed as a result of "hackings" reached around 9 percent in 2013. The Associated Press referenced the study as well as the different means hackers could still use to obtain information, such as sending out "phishing" emails.

The Associated Press examined the claims of the study in-depth, including the assertion that around 30 million health records are under threat across the country. Some breaches were the result of accidents but still dangerous, with records being distributed to the wrong people. Physical sources of data, such as computers and drives, were vulnerable as well as information accessible online.

Practitioner readiness to address possible weaknesses in data security is an important aspect of prevention. MedPageToday recently quoted Dr. Marion Jenkins, who spoke at a Health Information and Management Systems Society gathering about health data risks.

"Now that credit card companies can shut down cards quickly once they are stolen, credit card numbers aren't worth very much to hackers, maybe a dollar each on the open market," Dr. Jenkins said. "Health records are five to ten times more valuable [because] they can use them to do unauthorized or fraudulent Medicare or Medicaid billing," the doctor added.

Bearing this in mind, the strategy a practice may have previously used to stem records fraud and promote security could be less suited to the current digital environment. Enforcing best practices requires health entities to take initiative by finding the healthcare consulting firms that will steer the professionals that work with them towards more mindful activities.

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