Data Breaches Common in Health Care Industry

More than a quarter (26 percent) of health care respondents reported that their organization had previously experienced a data breach.

health it and data breach

Health care organizations are rethinking their reliance on compliance requirements as the primary way to protect patient data, according to a Harris Poll survey of 920 IT decision makers conducted on behalf of Vormetric.

The survey results indicate that data protection in healthcare organizations has been driven largely by compliance requirements – 54 percent reported compliance requirements as the top reason for protecting sensitive data, and 68 percent rated compliance as very or extremely effective at stopping insider threats and data breaches.

At the same time, more than a quarter of respondents (26 percent) reported that their organization had previously experienced a data breach, and nearly half (48 percent) reported that in the last year their organization had failed a compliance audit or encountered a data breach.

"It’s hard for consumers to get a good view into the security practices of healthcare organizations today, but with some research they can arm themselves with information to help them evaluate the organization, and ask intelligent questions before making a decision," Alan Kessler, CEO of Vormetric, told eWEEK.

However, the study indicates that priorities are changing, with respondents reporting that compliance is now their second priority for IT security spending at 39 percent. Preventing a data breach ranks first at 53 percent.

In addition, 63 percent of health care IT decision makers report that their organizations are planning to increase spending to offset data threats.

An overwhelming 92 percent of respondents said their organizations are either somewhat or more vulnerable to insider threats, and 49 percent felt very or extremely vulnerable.

Additionally, 62 percent of respondents identified privileged users – those who have access to all resources available from systems they manage – as the most dangerous insiders. Partners with internal access and contractors ranked second and third.

The top factors driving IT security spending were data breach prevention at 53 percent, fulfilling compliance requirements and passing audits at 39 percent, and protection of financial and other assets at 38 percent.

"There is an evolution in process from a fixation on meeting compliance requirements, to protecting their organizations and patients from the consequences of data breaches," Kessler said. "In effect, they are beginning to protect patients’ data as another element of protecting patients’ health. Frankly, we think we’ll see more health care organizations reset priorities as more breaches lead to financial and legal headaches. Sometimes, lessons need to be learned the hard way."