Most healthcare IT breaches come from attacks, a new report suggests

While private practices and small medical facilities have been taking steps to improve patient care by adopting EMR software, eprescribing and medical billing tools, the transition process to these new systems could be putting patient records at an increased risk from intentional data breaches.

According to recent statistics obtained by InformationWeek from an upcoming study conducted by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), most healthcare data breaches result from the work of hackers rather than worker mistakes or other traditional scapegoats. In total, researchers at ITRC found that of all 419 breaches across all industries that were publicly disclosed in 2011, 26 percent were triggered by hackers.

By comparison, data breaches caused by the transportation of data or by employees of a particular organization accounted for 18 percent and 13 percent of the total data breaches studied by the organization, respectively. In total, ITRC estimates that 23 million records were breached, but experts say the actual number of incidents could be far greater, as many of breaches are so small they go unreported.

While healthcare institutions weren't the only ones affected by data breaches, they did experience a high amount when compared to other industries. For example, the government saw the highest level of breaches, accounting for 44 percent of the total, while businesses experienced 33 percent of these attacks and medical groups fell victim to 16 percent of all breaches, according to the news source.

As a result, healthcare IT professionals should invest in tools that help them prepare for a potentially costly data loss, especially when they are undergoing other sensitive shifts that could upset their usual information flow. But, before making a purchasing decision, the best way for medical professionals to begin may be to speak with an experienced consultant that can provide software recommendations for this need.

Microwize Technology is a leading retailer of healthcare IT products, including electronic medical records software and medical billing software from top providers like Lytec, Allscripts and McKesson.