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Survey: Security Risks Still of Great Concern to Healthcare Orgs

March 4, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Just 36 percent of healthcare organizations said that within their entity, security and compliance policies are at most only moderately enforced, according to a survey from the Morristown, N.J.-based health information service provider (HISP) DataMotion.

The survey is the third annual from DataMotion, covering corporate email and file transfer habits. There were more than 300 respondents from the healthcare industry alone, with 780 IT and business decision-makers from across the U.S. and Canada participating in total. While healthcare has made gains, the survey reveals employees violating security and compliance policies, risk-taking with sensitive data, a lack of encryption, major vulnerabilities in mobile, and a surprising lack of awareness about Direct secure messaging.

While companies in all industries increasingly have put security and compliance policies in place—nearly 90 percent of all respondents affirming that in 2014 (compared to 81 percent in 2013)—the growth is largely from healthcare entities. However, challenges remain for healthcare when it comes to implementing these, ranging from low employee comprehension to policy violations. Additionally, a lack of encryption, risks in mobile device usage and low awareness of Direct pose serious issues for the highly regulated industry, according to the survey.

According to the results:

  • 73 percent of respondents said employees/co-workers either occasionally or routinely violate these security and compliance policies (compared to 81 percent across all industries)
  • Key to making policies work is ensuring employee comprehension. When asked if they thought employees fully understood these types of policies, more than a third in healthcare said no, just a slight improvement over those from other industries.
  • When asked about common reasons why policies are violated, 52.7 percent from healthcare said it was because employees were not aware of the policy or that they were in violation. Another 29.1 percent said employees didn’t understand policies. Most troubling perhaps, 18.2 percent said policies were intentionally violated by employees to get their job done.
  • 80.8 percent of healthcare respondents affirmed they’re permitted to use mobile devices for email. Yet, of those that permit email on a mobile device and have encryption at their organization, 31.3 percent cannot send and receive encrypted email from their mobile client.
  • Nearly a quarter of healthcare respondents reported they don’t have the capability to encrypt email.
  • Nearly 42 percent of healthcare respondents said they’re unaware of Direct. And of those who are aware of Direct, 42 percent say their organization is not using the alternative to email encryption.

“Though the survey shows year-over-year growth in the number of companies putting security and compliance measures in place, the widespread security risks occurring are of great concern,” Bob Janacek, chief technology officer at DataMotion, said in a news release statement. “Particularly at a time when organizations have experienced serious data breaches, it’s essential for companies to have strong policies and ensure employees fully understand and follow these. While healthcare has made gains in policy development, it’s all for naught if implementation fails, especially in such a highly regulated industry.”

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