As the health care system moves forward in 2016, experts will look back on 2015 as a year of transition. Particularly when it comes to cyber security, as this year has seen a rise in cybercrime targeting the health care industry specifically. The scale of this issue is a growing threat to the medical industry as a whole, and something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the top 15 data breaches of 2015 affected well over 110 million people. The personal information of nearly half of the adult population of the country has been compromised in one form or another by a data breach of their health insurance provider. This is a growing pandemic that does not have an immediate fix.
"According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the top 15 data breaches of 2015 affected well over 110 million people."
In the past year alone, companies such as Premera, Excellus, UCLA Health and CareFirst have announced major digital security breaches, bringing the total number of compromised patient records over the last five years to nearly 150 million. Experts are referring to this rise in cybercrime as a new health care crisis, one that was worsened when the Affordable Care Act was opened to the public and people could buy insurance online.
The Ponemon Institute, a well-respected security research firm, estimates that cybercrimes against hospitals, clinics and doctors across the United States costs the health care industry more than $6 billion each year. On an individual level, those who are victims of medical fraud find the process of undoing the damage to be both time-consuming and costly. Ponemon estimates that it costs an average of $13,500 for a person to restore their health care records.
The health care industry remains a strong target for hackers because of the patient information that can be stolen and abused. Social Security numbers, insurance ID numbers, credit card information, home addresses and medical history are all tremendously valuable and can be easily used in identity or theft. On the black market, medical information can be sold for anywhere from 10 to 20 times more than credit card information, and the issue cannot be as easily resolved as canceling a credit card.
In order to prevent these crimes from happening in the future, the health care industry should learn from companies in the private financial sector. More robust and automated fraud detection technologies that can rapidly detect breaches are essential, and should be one of the industry's top priorities moving forward. The security of the patient information should be seen as critical, and be properly encrypted.
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