Business associates, those who handle private patient information for healthcare organizations – including everyone from billing, credit bureaus, benefits management, legal services, claims processing, insurance brokers, data processing firms, pharmacy chains, accounting firms, temporary office personnel, and offshore transcription vendors – are largely unprepared to meet the new data breach related obligations included in the HITECH Act.
HIMSS Analytics announced its findings of a national survey of hospitals and business associates to check the state of healthcare vulnerability to data breach. The research revealed that approximately one-third of business associates surveyed were not aware that they need to adhere to federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security requirements, compared to 87 percent of health providers.
Hospitals and health providers are taking action:
- 85 percent of health providers said they will take steps to ensure that data held by business associates will not be breached.
- Nearly half of hospitals, 47 percent, said they would actually terminate their contracts with their business associates for violations.
The research also found that:
- 50 percent of large hospitals experienced at least one data breach this year
- 68 percent of all hospitals indicated that the HITECH Act’s expanded breach notification requirements will result in the discovery and reporting of more incidents, and 57 percent reported that they now have a greater level of awareness of data breaches and breach risk
- 90 percent indicated they have changed or plan to change policies and procedures to prevent and detect data breaches.
“This study highlights the tremendous risk exposure for healthcare organizations” said Bob Gregg, CEO of ID Experts. “Despite an increase in risk assessments conducted, data breach is on the rise and patients are at a high risk level for medical identity theft and fraud where an unknown person will use an identity to illegally receive benefits or services.”