Breaches of Health Care Data: A Growing Epidemic
Few types of data are as sensitive and valuable as protected health information (PHI). Unfortunately, theft of this information is becoming a regular event. According to the "Verizon 2015 Protected Health Information Data Breach Report," 90 percent of industries in the medical and health care arena have experienced a PHI breach. Verizon examined datasets across 25 countries, and it's clear that the problem has reached a critical point. Several major breaches occurred in the U.S. recently, including incidents at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). What's surprising—and disturbing—is that most organizations that are outside of the health care industry don't realize that they also store this type of data. Common sources of protected health information include employee records (such as health insurance claims and Workers' Compensation claims) and information stored in companies' wellness programs. Verizon reports that this information is generally not protected very well. The report states that "Health care providers [need to] better proactively defend patient data from prying eyes; assess processes, procedures and technologies that affect the security of these records; and prescribe a proactive treatment that will help the 'cyber-immune system.'" Here's a look at some key findings.