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    Healthcare IT News: Security: healthcare’s fixer-upper

    Healthcare IT News discusses information technology security and what needs to be done to better protect individuals’ medical data:

    Healthcare’s all about the patients, right? Earning their trust so they return for annual checkups, delivering high-quality care while respecting their medical privacy at the highest level. But far too often, there’s a disconnect – the idea that the care ends when the patient exits the building or a diagnosis is made, the idea that clinical deals with clinical and information technology deals with IT. But, that’s not often the case in this digital age. Lines are blurred, and what happens in one area can have serious implications for another – especially when it comes to patient privacy.

    Healthcare organizations are charged with safekeeping some of the most personal and sensitive information on individuals who come to receive care. That bout of depression you had in your early 20s, the sexually transmitted infection you were treated for last year, blood tests of every ilk, cancer diagnoses, medical procedures, HIV statuses, psychiatric disorders, every medication you’ve ever been prescribed, administered vaccinations, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, demographics, where you live, insurance details, even payment information. Healthcare organizations are gold mines of data. Valuable data. And, traditionally, protecting said data hasn’t been the industry’s strong suit. […]

    Of course, the reasons behind why many organizations have reported egregious privacy and security failings are not always one dimensional. Oftentimes, data breaches are the result of mistakes by well-intentioned people governed by poor policies and paltry staff training, and sometimes it’s the other way around.

    Frequently, it’s a matter of unencrypted devices being stolen or lost, but there’s low probability the data has actually been compromised. […]

    In the realm of patient privacy and security, it’s judicious to consider the medical identity theft and fraud landscape. The more laissez-faire healthcare organizations are in protecting patient data, the higher the chance of fraud. […]

    Then there’s the issue of trust and how patients respond following the compromise of their protected health information. This patient response can signify serious long-term consequences for their health and wellbeing, as privacy advocates point out. […]

    A 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study assessing the privacy perceptions of U.S. adults pertaining to their health data found more than 12 percent of some 1,500 respondents withheld information from care providers over medical security concerns.
    Applying this percentage to the national population represents a potential 38.2 million people withholding medical information from providers. What’s more, this number doesn’t even consider people who altogether forgo medical treatment due to data security concerns.

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