A study done by researchers at the Stanford University found that between the years of 2010 in
2013, more than 29 million healthcare records were potentially misused and exposed to
criminals. While some of the theft of healthcare records was the result of hacking, the study
found that a good portion of the theft was simply a case of someone stealing a computer or
stealing a laptop that had unencrypted sensitive medical records on it.
The Journal of American Medical Association stated that between 2010 and 2013, there has been
a 100 percent increase in the number of security breaches involving hacking of medical records.
And while hacking was not the primary way that these medical records were attained, the
potential exists for hacking to result in large numbers of compromised records. Proof of this can
be seen by the attacks on Anthem Inc. and Premera Blue Cross that were both hit by hackers at
the outset of 2015. The result was that more than 90 million medical records were exposed to
Steps to Improve the Cyber Safety of Medical Records
As the threat on the safety of medical records increases, so does the efforts that the medical
community is putting forth to protect the private information of its patients. Working with
companies like McAfee, SIEM, and FairWarning, the medical community is implementing
initiatives designed to achieve the following goals:
• Improve Indication and Collaboration
• Quickly Identify Cyber Threats and Contain Them Efficiently
• Identify Gaps in Security before They Can Be Exploited and Remedy Them Immediately
• Create Security Systems that are in Compliance with Government Regulations
• Remove Duplicated Security Efforts with the Goal of Simplifying Auditing and Compliance
The medical community’s primary goal is to maintain their patient’s privacy. In order to do this
they must have a health information management degree or similar education along with being
able to effectively identify internal and external threats and make changes to their IT
infrastructure to minimize these threats. Things such as medical records snooping via viruses,
worms, and Trojan horses can be minimized by the use of appropriate software and network
The Future of Medical Record Safety
While many efforts are currently in play to protect patient’s privacy, it is not realistic to believe
that breaches like those that occurred with Blue Cross will be a thing of the past. In fact, patients
should expect that as medical professionals use more mobile devices that backup to the cloud in
connection with their work, the number of breaches of personal medical data will increase. Of
course, this does not mean that all hope is lost. Government agencies along with private
companies will continue to work to protect medical data with the hopes of one day being able to
guarantee complete privacy for all patients.
AUTHOR BIO: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write for
business, health, and women’s interests. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful
daughters. Dixie got advice for this article from professionals at the University of Cinncinnati, who
offer health information management degrees for prospective students.
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