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Experts Forecast Top Seven Trends in Healthcare Information Privacy for 2011
January 7, 2011

Move to Electronic Health Records Raises Concerns for Patient Privacy, Security, Data Breach

PORTLAND, Oregon, /PRNewswire/ -- What are the top security and privacy issues facing the healthcare industry in 2011? A panel of healthcare experts representing privacy, trends, technology, regulatory, data breach, and governance were asked to weigh in with their forecasts for 2011. These experts suggest that as health information exchanges take form, millions of patient records—soon to be available as digital files—will lead to potential unauthorized access, violation of new data breach laws and, more importantly, exposure to the threat of medical and financial identity theft.

These predictions are supported by the recent Ponemon Institute's Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security, published November 2010, which found that data breaches of patient information cost the healthcare industry $6 billion annually; protecting patient data is a low priority for hospitals; and the healthcare industry lags behind the recently enacted HITECH laws.

The top predictions for 2011 include:

1. Health information exchanges, many of which will be launched by inexperienced and understaffed organizations, will force more attention on security and privacy;
2. Increased fines and regulatory action by State Attorneys General and regulatory agencies;
3. Data breaches and associated costs will increase, as penalties for information security negligence are acted on;
4. Hospital governing-boards will exert their power to manage data breach risks in order to increase accountability and fiduciary responsibility;
5. A significant "data spill" is inevitable and will bring national attention to the issue;
6. Heightened patient awareness and concern over the security of their private medical data;
7. The finalization of data breach notification rules by the Department of Health and Human Services could remove the controversial "harm threshold" provision that determines whether notification is required when an incident occurs. If removed, this will create a risk of over notification and desensitization of patients.

Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute; research experts in privacy, information security policy and information management said, "Endemic failure to keep pace with best practices and advancing technology has resulted in antiquated data security, governance, policy plaguing in the healthcare industry. Millions of patients are at risk for medical and financial identity fraud due to inadequate information security. Information security in the healthcare industry is at the fulcrum of economic, technological, and regulatory influence and, to date, it has not demonstrated an ability to adapt to meet the resulting challenges—but it must. The reputation and well-being of those organizations upon which we rely to practice the healing arts depends on it."


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