Healthcare IT professionals may need to increase data security, a new report finds

According to a new report by the Ponemon Institute – a Michigan-based research group, the U.S. healthcare industry could be losing an average of more than $6 billion annually due to data breaches. The study, which was released on December 2 and sponsored by ID Experts, found that the number of breaches increased by 32 percent from 2010.

In total, the research organization surveyed industry professionals at 72 hospitals and health providers. However, rather than focusing on improving the internal and networking safeguards that can help keep hackers away from patient information, the report seems to suggest that healthcare organizations could benefit by adopting tighter data restrictions from within.

For example, nearly 50 percent of the organizations surveyed said the breaches were the result of employee mistakes. This could mean that healthcare IT managers across the country may need to evaluate their security processes.

"It's definitely not getting better," Larry Ponemon, president and founder of the institute, said in an interview with Bloomberg. "What we see on the people side, on the technology side and on the governance practice side for health-care organizations is that security doesn’t seem to be their priority."

Among the other reasons cited for data breaches were mistakes by third-party businesses, lost or stolen computing devices and a lack of information on how data is stored and protected. While it wasn't directly expressed in the report, the growing reliance on technology may have been the biggest factor contributing to the increase.

With the advent of eprescribing and electronic medical billing software, more and more processes are recorded digitally. This is why it can be important for private practices and small medical facilities to secure the help of an outside provider of top-notch Medisoft medical billing software who can also provide basic IT consultation.