Regs haven’t made patient records safer, study says

While the government has passed laws to better protect private health information, most data health-care providers say that information isn’t any safer than it was before, according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute.

A survey of 65 health-care organizations based on interviews with multiple employees in different fields at those organizations found that 71 per cent don’t think that new federal regulations have significantly changed how patient records are managed, according to “Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security.”

A nearly equal number, 70 per cent, say that protecting patient data is not a top priority despite passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, both of which were designed to better guard personal health information.
And about the same number (71 per cent) say their health-care organizations lack resources, have insufficient policies (69 per cent) and too few appropriately trained staffers (52 per cent) to carry out privacy mandates, the Ponemon study says.

“Federal regulations have not improved the safety of patient records,” the survey concludes. Most respondents (56 per cent) say they need help to even figure out if they are in compliance.

Among the respondents, the most common means by which data breaches were discovered were by an employee, via an audit or because a patient complained, the survey says.

Most of the breaches were caused by unintentional actions such as inadvertently e-mailing data, lost or stolen devices contained the data and glitches by third parties that jeopardized data, the Ponemon survey says.

The study also finds:

* The average cost of a breach is $2 million.
* More than half say it takes one to six months to clean up after a breach.
* Most data breaches are small – 61% involve 1 to 100 records.
* Only 14% have had no data breaches in the past two years. 29% have had more than five.
* In about a third of cases no patients were notified of breaches; in about a third of cases all patients were notified.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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