Data breaches suggest need for more security at hospitals, clinics

Surgical errors, a misdiagnosis, and other types of medical mistakes can certainly cause Illinois patients to suffer life-threatening or life-changing injuries. These mistakes may affect a patient’s health, but medical malpractice also has devastating and tragic effects on families.

Many doctors in Chicago and throughout the entire country understand how their actions can make lasting impacts — both good and bad — on patients, and they take their professional responsibilities seriously in order to provide their patients with effective and quality care. However, some doctors may forget that quality care also includes honoring a patient’s privacy. Medical malpractice can certainly cause undue physical or emotional harm to a patient and his or her family, but failing to protect a patient’s private information could also cause damage.

According to a recent report released by the Ponemon Institute, hospitals and other medical clinics are not focusing enough of their efforts on making sure that patients’ electronic records are safe and secure. If these records get into the wrong hands, a stranger could have access to one’s Social Security number, family medical history and other personal information from one’s medical records.

Since 2009, it is estimated that information from about 19 million personal medical records have been obtained from security breaches at medical facilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been aware of nearly 400 major breaches since 2009. The agency said that thousands of other minor breaches occur each year in the U.S. What is concerning about these breaches is that medical records contain a great deal of personal information that can be used in many different ways such as illegally obtaining prescriptions under someone else’s name or making one’s information public on the Internet.

According to the Ponemon Institute, many of these breaches are a result of hospitals and clinics simply lacking proper security features or knowledge about storing electronic records. Many doctors use smartphones but don’t have safety features installed to protect information on their phones if they lose the devices or if the devices are stolen. Sometimes employees at hospitals and clinics mistakenly give out information they were not supposed to give out.

Source: USA Today, “Data breaches put patients at risk for identity theft,” Robin Erb, Feb. 12, 2012

Medical Malpractice


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