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Health Security Execs: ‘We Need More Resources’

March 5, 2012
by David Raths
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Survey reveals perception of senior management indifference

A recent survey of 100 executives charged with protecting health information reveals that many respondents see a lack of senior executive support and low funding as key barriers to a stronger privacy and security framework.

On March 5, the American National Standards Institute released a study called ‘the Financial Impact of Breached Protected Health Information.” (http://webstore.ansi.org/phi/)

Partnering with the Santa Fe Group/Shared Assessments Program Healthcare Working Group and the Internet Security Alliance, ANSI researched the reputational, financial, legal, operational, and clinical repercussions of a protected health information (PHI) breach on an organization and proposed a methodology to assess specific security risks and build a business case for enhanced PHI security.

An appendix to the report is a survey of executives responsible for the protection of PHI. ANSI sought to determine attitudes about risks, ease of compliance and effects of laws, and the ultimate costs from the loss of PHI data. The report noted that the survey responses do not represent a national sampling of the opinions of those responsible for safeguarding PHI, but rather provide some anecdotal insights into the experiences and concerns of PHI protectors.

Respondents identified lack of funding (58.5 percent); insufficient time (40 percent); nonexistence of senior executive support (32.3 percent); lack of enabling technologies (27.7 percent); and the absence of accountability and leadership (27.7 percent), as their largest concerns.

On a positive note, 75 percent or respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement: “We have effective policies to protect PHI,” and 76 percent“agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement: “We take effective steps to comply.” On the other hand, 40 percent could not agree with the statement: “Management views privacy and security as a priority.”

Fifty-four percent could not agree with the statement: “We possess sufficient resources to ensure requirements are currently being met.”

A combined 85 percent see accidental or inadvertent exposure from an insider as the most likely or very likely treat affecting their organization, while 56 percent also see current threats coming from malicious insiders.

When asked about the challenges of compliance with state and federal laws and regulations, respondents mentioned challenges with:

• Conflicts between state and federal laws;

• Laws requiring tracking and reporting of everyone who has touched a patient record; and

• Technological issues (systems not set up to achieve full compliance with the regulatory requirements).

For in-depth interviews on these topics with chief information security officers, see the article “Year of the CISO” (http://www.healthcare-informatics.com/article/year-ciso) in the March issue.

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