One of the great conveniences of a digital infrastructure is that it makes data management much more efficient and easy. With data stored locally on a computer, rather than a traditional paper file in a cabinet, information is easily duplicated and sent to sources that need it, such as e-mail, or on a local network.
However, if you take that a step further and store data, such as that of an EMR, “in the cloud,” that is to say, on online servers, you get a huge boost in efficiency. Digital remote cloud storage means that crucial medical information can be centrally accessed and added to. It means that no matter where a patient goes, important medical and financial information is always available to the people that may need to treat that patient.
However, with all this convenience comes additional concerns, like securing data. Unfortunately, data breaches can—and do—occur in the medical industry, and here’s what you need to know about them.
2016 saw over 27 million patients in America suffer some kind of data breach at various clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the country. The most popular reason that this occurs is because of identity theft, an activity closely monitored in the USA by the Identity Theft Resource Center. Identity theft occurs when hackers break into restricted data areas and acquire normally confidential information, such as a person’s social security number, or credit card numbers. That information can then be used—or sold to others—so that illegal purchases and other transactions can be made.
Data ransoming or ransomware is another frequent tactic. In this strategy, once access to the information has been acquired, it is then locked out from access to the actual, legitimate users, unless a ransom is paid. Once the money is received, the owners get access to their data returned so their work can resume. Scary stuff!!!
In the first quarter of 2017 alone, there have already been some spectacular breaches involving significant numbers of people, using different techniques. In Texas, for example, the practice known as Urology Austin was victimized by a ransomware attack in which 200,000 patients had their data affected. Urology Austin claims that while there was indeed a breach and lockout of data, they don’t believe any of the information was actually taken.
On the other hand, old tactics are still just as effective with the right approach. In Indianapolis, American Senior Communities fell prey to a classic strategy, the e-mail scam. A convincing forged e-mail was sent to an ASC employee, claiming to be from an executive within the company requiring the W-2 tax information of employees. As a result of this deception, a duped employee did send the data, compromising the financial information of 17,000 employees within the company.
Knowledge will always be power, and having access to identity and financial details is very powerful. Because of that, all healthcare providers must remain vigilant as this industry is a necessary repository for important patient information. It’s critical to put our best foot forward to protect that information—and ourselves—from data breaches.
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