Taking the physician’s pulse on cybersecurity

More than four in five U.S. physicians (83 percent) have experienced some form of a cybersecurity attack, according to Accenture and the American Medical Association (AMA). This, along with additional findings, signals a call to action for the healthcare sector to increase cybersecurity support for medical practices in their communities.

physicians cybersecurity

Cybersecurity concerns

The findings, which examined the experiences of roughly 1,300 U.S. physicians, underscore the recognition that it is not “if” but “when” a cyberattack will occur.

More than half (55 percent) of the physicians were very or extremely concerned about future cyberattacks in their practice. In addition, physicians were most concerned that future attacks could interrupt their clinical practices (cited by 74 percent), compromise the security of patient records (74 percent) or impact patient safety (53 percent).

“The important role of information sharing within clinical care makes healthcare a uniquely attractive target for cyber criminals through computer viruses and phishing scams that, if successful, can threaten care delivery and patient safety,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D., M.H.A. “New research shows that most physicians think that securely exchanging electronic data is important to improve healthcare. More support from the government, technology and medical sectors would help physicians with a proactive cybersecurity defense to better ensure the availability, confidentially and integrity of healthcare data.”

Cyberattacks and downtime

The findings show the most common type of cyberattack was phishing – cited by more than half (55 percent) of physicians who experienced an attack – followed by computer viruses (48 percent). Physicians from medium and large practices were twice as likely as those in small practices to experience these types of attacks.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all the physicians who experienced a cyberattack experienced up to four hours of downtime before they resumed operations, and approximately one-third (29 percent) of physicians in medium-sized practices that experienced a cyberattack said they experienced nearly a full day of downtime.

physicians cybersecurity

Data sharing

The vast majority (85 percent) of physicians believe it is very or extremely important to share personal health data outside of their health system – they just want to do it safely. Two-thirds believe that greater access to patient data both inside (cited by 67 percent) and outside (65 percent) their health system would help them provide quality patient care more efficiently. In addition, a significant majority (83 percent) of physicians said that HIPAA compliance alone is insufficient and that a more holistic approach to assessing and prioritizing risks is needed.

“Physician practices should not rely on compliance alone to enhance their security profile,” said Kaveh Safavi, M.D., J.D., head of Accenture’s global health practice. “Keeping pace with the sophistication of cyberattacks demands that physicians strengthen their capabilities, build resilience and invest in new technologies to support a foundation of digital trust with patients.”