Patient Information Storage and Privacy

Between 2010 and 2013, it was estimated that 29 million health records were exposed after breaches in security. The sad fact of the matter is that many of these breaches occurred simply by a criminal picking up a laptop at a work facility or other place where sensitive information was stored about patients. However, sometimes hacking is still to blame and the main reason why these breaches occur. So how, in an age where we want to maintain the utmost of privacy, do we do so when it is threatened?

The biggest step that should be taken, most large health providers and system managers believe, is encryption. Encryption involves encoding data specifically so that only authorized people are able to access it. From this, patient information will be entirely secretive and only accessible by those who need it, not people who are a threat to the privacy. (1)

We lose out when our privacy is threatened – what happens to the healthcare industry?

We are not the only people who suffer from a security breach when something goes wrong and patient information is made public to the unauthorized. Statistics say:

  • Due to HIPAA data breaches, the healthcare industry will lose approximately $7 billion a year.
  • 94% of healthcare organizations have had to deal with the threats and issues that come with data breaches, as it is estimated that they have had at least one breach in the last two years.
  • Only 40% of these organizations have confidence that they will be able to further prevent this from happening with absolutely no patient data lost. (2)

Security breaches have nearly doubled since 2010, rising to an astounding 8.7% in 2013 from the 4.7% they were at. In today’s day and time, we could be looking at numbers that are even much higher. So why are breaches so imminent? Well, for one, hacking has become a thing of the present and garnered a lot of attention from all types of people. Aside from that, some people simply want to get away with an easy theft of unsecured electronic records or papers.  Looking back, some people may remember when doctors would scribble things down on a notebook page and that would be as complex as a patient’s medical file got – however, in this day and age everything is technologically advanced and more can be jeopardized.

So how can breaches be prevented and more privacy ensured?

  1. Enhancing administrative controls will help. This is in regards to updating certain policies and procedures and guiding employees through processes that will establish better security. It is necessary that employees understand the precautions of this information slipping or what will happen to them if they are the one doing the crime themselves.
  2. Create physically inaccessible systems for people who are unauthorized, make it necessary to provide identification, and make usage of supplying passwords. If you keep a well-maintained system security, many will not give it the time of day.
  3. Keep proper identification of any weaknesses in the system with better management. Be able to detect any security breaches or attempts at them.
  4. Back up all data and, furthermore, use the encryption techniques previously discussed, as they are necessary for success.

If all of these measures are followed and systems are properly managed, the likelihood of these numbers falling is great. In the healthcare system where privacy is key and something that is strived after, taking proper precautions is the best way to ensure that everything will remain intact and patients will come out happy.