Healthcare Data Breaches – The New Normal?

For healthcare organizations, cyber breaches are less a question of “if” than “when.” Why? Personal medical information is worth 10 times more than a credit card number on the black market. What’s for sale? Names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information. Your health credentials can go for about $10 each and may be used to create false insurance claims or fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs for resale. Unlike credit cards, which tend to be cancelled quickly after fraud is detected, it may take years to realize that your health information is being used fraudulently.

Ponemon Institute2015 witnessed four of the five largest healthcare data breaches in history – Anthem (78.8 million individuals), Premera Blue Cross (11 million), Excellus Health Plan (10 million) and the University of California at Los Angeles (4.5 million). Already in 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was impacted by ransomware, when hackers demanded $3.6 million in Bitcoin for the return of its servers including its electronic health record system (ultimately paying $17,000 in ransom within a week of the attack).

In light of this imminent threat, what is a healthcare organization to do?

Invest in encryption

Early identification and communication wins the day

Be ready

At the end of the day, what’s at stake for healthcare organizations, and provider organizations, in particular?  For starters, affected organizations can generally expect lawsuits from affected patients, citing violations in consumer and patient privacy protection laws.  But, how does a cyber breach impact the organization’s reputation?  TransUnion Healthcare’s survey found that more than half of recent hospital patients are willing to switch healthcare providers if their current provider has a data breach and 65% would avoid healthcare providers that experience a data breach.

In this new world order, can consumers afford to be so reactive to data breaches? Or will they become immune to them as they become the new normal?

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