Data Breaches Cost Healthcare $408 per Record: How to Prevent the Pain

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According to the federal government in June 2019, there were 3.5 million people’s data exposed in healthcare data breaches that were reported. The majority of that data breach was from Dominion National that claims the incident may have started as early as April 2010. The data accessed included access enrollment, demographic data, and associated dental and vision information. Similarly, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics reported in June 2019 that there was a data breach from an unauthorized user that accessed their vendor payment system that affected nearly 8 million and 12 million patients, respectively. These alarming numbers do not even include encrypted data that is lost by organizations since HIPAA does not consider the loss of encrypted data a breach. The United States healthcare system as a whole lost $6.2 billion in 2016 from data breaches with the average data breach costing a company $2.2 million. Research from IBM Security found that in 2018, the cost to healthcare organizations was $408 per record, up from $380 per record in 2017.

According to a HIMSS 2019 Cybersecurity Survey, 59 percent of all data breaches in the past 12 months started with phishing, or when an attacker masquerades as another reputable person in an email or other communications. Cybercriminals also often change their approach and are now increasingly using techniques powered by artificial intelligence. In response, healthcare organizations are actively deploying artificial intelligence solutions to combat suspicious activities, as well as increasing employee education and cloud-based security. 

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There are some basic techniques that healthcare organizations should be deploying in addition to conducting risk assessments and providing employee education. For example, healthcare organizations should:

  • Take time to understand cloud service-level agreements, retain ownership of data that can be accessed in the event of a crash, and ensure service-level agreements comply with state privacy laws
  • Establish subnet wireless networks for guests and other public types of activity
  • Use multi-factor authentication on employee devices
  • Use business association agreements to help distribute risk and clarify vendor reporting requirements
  • Have a “bring your own device policy” based on current best practices like having a complex password requirements and policies that can be enforced
  • Plan for the unexpected in thinking about how long the healthcare organization can function in different areas without data, while also having an emergency solution for back-up information and data restoration

These tips can be incorporated into the organization’s cybersecurity framework. There are benefits to thinking through some of these strategies before they are mandated to have an effective cyber-defense program that protects both patients and the organization.

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