The Fifth Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data reveals that the majority of healthcare organizations represented in this study have experienced multiple security incidents and nearly all have faced a data breach. Despite the universal risk for data breach, the study found that many organizations lack the funds and resources to protect patient data and are unprepared to meet the changing cyber threat environment.

The 2015 study was expanded beyond healthcare organizations to include Business Associates.

Represented in this study are 90 covered entities (hereafter referred to as healthcare organizations) and 88 business associates (hereafter may be referred to as either business associates or BAs). A BA is a person or entity that performs services for a covered entity that involves the use or disclosure of protected health information (PHI), according to the U.S.

Department of Health & Human Services. The inclusion of BAs provides a broader perspective of the healthcare industry as a whole and demonstrates the impact third parties have on the privacy and security of patient data. Respondents were surveyed about their privacy and security practices and experiences with data breaches, as well as their experiences with both electronic and paper security incidents.

Data breaches in healthcare continue to put patient data at risk and are costly. Based on the results of this study, they estimate that data breaches could be costing the industry $6 billion.

  • 90% of healthcare organizations represented in this study had a data breach
  • 40% had more than five data breaches over the past two years

According to the findings of this research, the average cost of a data breach for healthcare organizations is estimated to be more than $2.1 million. No healthcare organization, regardless of size, is immune from data breach. The average cost of a data breach to BAs represented in this research is more than $1 million. Despite this, half of all organizations have little or no confidence in their ability to detect all patient data loss or theft.

For the first time, criminal attacks are the number one cause of data breaches in healthcare. Criminal attacks on healthcare organizations are up 125% compared to five years ago. In fact, 45% of healthcare organizations say the root cause of the data breach was a criminal attack and 12 % say it was due to a malicious insider. In the case of BAs, 39% say a criminal attacker caused the breach and 10% say it was due to a malicious insider.

The percentage of criminal-based security incidents is even higher; for instance, web-borne malware attacks caused security incidents for 78% of healthcare organizations and 82% for BAs. Despite the changing threat environment, however, organizations are not changing their behaviour, only 40% of healthcare organizations and 35% of BAs are concerned about cyber attackers.

Security incidents are part of everyday business. 65% of healthcare organizations and 87% of BAs report their organizations experienced electronic information-based security incidents over the past two years.

  • 54% of healthcare organizations suffered paper-based security incidents
  • 41% of BAs had such an incident

However, many organizations do not have the budget and resources to protect both electronic and paper-based patient information. For instance, 56 % of healthcare organizations and 59% of BAs don’t believe their incident response process has adequate funding and resources. In addition, the majority of both types of organizations fail to perform a risk assessment for security incidents, despite the federal mandate to do so.

Even though medical identity theft nearly doubled in five years, from 1.4 million adult victims to over 2.3 million in 2014, the harms to individuals affected by a breach are not being addressed. Many medical identity theft victims report they have spent an average of $13,500 to restore their credit, reimburse their healthcare provider for fraudulent claims and correct inaccuracies in their health records.

Nearly two-thirds of both healthcare organizations and BAs do not offer any protection services for patients whose information has been breached.

Since 2010, this study has tracked privacy and security trends of patient data at healthcare organizations. Although the annual economic impact of a data breach has remained consistent over the past five years, the most-often reported root cause of a data breach is shifting from lost or stolen computing devices to criminal attacks. At the same time, employee negligence remains a top concern when it comes to exposing patient data. Even though organizations are slowly increasing their budgets and resources to protect healthcare data, they continue to believe not enough investment is being made to meet the changing threat landscape.

Key Findings

In this section, they provide a deeper analysis of the findings. They have organized this report according to the two following topics:

  • Privacy and security of patient data in healthcare organizations and business associates
  • Five-year trends in privacy and security practices in healthcare organizations

To respond quickly to data breaches, organizations need to invest more in technologies.

  • 58 % of healthcare organizations agree that policies and procedures are in place to effectively prevent or quickly detect unauthorized patient data access, loss or theft.
  • 49% agree they have sufficient technologies
  • 33% agree they have sufficient resources to prevent or quickly detect a data breach.
  • 53% of organizations have personnel with the necessary technical expertise to be able to identify and resolve data breaches involving the unauthorized access, loss or theft of patient data.

Background

  • Covered entities are defined in the HIPAA rules as (1) health plans, (2) health care clearinghouses, and (3) health care providers who electronically transmit any health information in connection with transactions for which HHS has adopted standards.
  • A security incident is defined as a violation of an organization’s security or privacy policies involving protected information such as social security numbers or confidential medical information. A data breach is an incident that meets specific legal definitions per applicable breach law(s). Data breaches require notification to the victims and may result in regulatory investigation, corrective actions, and fines.
  • This is based on multiplying $1,067,400 (50% of the average two year cost of a data breach experienced by the 90 healthcare organizations in this research) x 5,686 (the total number of registered US hospitals per the AHA).
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