Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Ear and Eye, Inc. (MEEI) agreed to pay a hefty $1.5 million settlement to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for alleged HIPAA violations. According to MEEI, a personal laptop that contained unencrypted electronic protected health information (ePHI) was stolen, exposing a large amount of personal, clinical, and patient prescription data.
The government’s investigation found that MEEI failed to take steps necessary to comply with several HIPAA Security Rule requirements regarding data protection, and that the failures occurred over an extended period of time. And while this healthcare data breach involved a laptop, data security risks like this extend to larger “secure” IT environments as well. Just take a look at the largest healthcare data breaches in the last few years, and you’ll see that intrusions have taken place not only on portable devices, but on enterprise servers, client-server systems, centralized back-up systems, and cloud implementations.
Healthcare organizations must take notice. With the growing use of electronic medical records (EMRs), security risks are becoming much more widespread, and healthcare is one of the most susceptible industries. According to the Identity Theft Research Center, so far in 2012, more than 27 percent of reported data breaches have been in the medical/healthcare industry.
As shown by the MEEI case, government regulators are becoming a lot more aggressive about imposing monetary penalties for non-compliance. But practical solutions do exist – key among them are data encryption and tokenization systems for cloud applications and cloud storage. As we have proven with Inland Empire Health Plan, a cloud data security solution that incorporates encryption and/or tokenization can help healthcare IT and compliance managers tackle this critical (and potentially costly) data protection challenge.
By rendering ePHI undecipherable, and therefore unusable, when it’s outside an enterprise firewall, healthcare organizations can protect patient information in the cloud, comply with regulations, and stay out of headline news with reports of image-damaging security breaches.
PerspecSys Inc. is a leading provider of cloud data security and SaaS security solutions that remove the technical, legal and financial risks of placing sensitive company data in the cloud. PerspecSys accomplishes this for many large, heavily regulated companies by never allowing sensitive data to leave a customer’s network, while maintaining the functionality of cloud applications. Based in Toronto, PerspecSys Inc. is a privately held company backed by investors that include Intel Capital and GrowthWorks.
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