According to a new study, depending on the hospital you choose your privacy may be at risk. There are currently 311 major teaching hospitals in the United States, which are affiliated with medical schools that train future doctors.
The new report, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, found teaching hospitals, which are usually larger and have more people involved in patient records, have a higher risk of data breaches.
Today, hospital data breaches are fairly common, with the intentional or unintentional release of secure and confidential information, such as social security numbers, birthdates, home addresses, health insurance IDs and medical diagnosis. The patient’s information could potentially be utilized to perpetrate medical identity fraud, occurs when someone steals person information and utilizes it to obtain medical care. In some cases the victim will be left with a hefty bill that could add up to thousands of dollars.
Hospitals are not the only medical facility to be affected by data breaches. Doctors’ offices, health insurers, after-hour clinics and off-site surgical centers are also at risk. Last year, on average, across the healthcare industry personal patient data was compromised more than once per day.
Even though people should be aware of these facts, there is no reason to panic. There are effective ways to safeguard this data, regardless of the hospital you choose to go to.
What Exactly Did The Study Find And What It Means
Researchers from Johns Hopkins, Ball State University and Michigan State University examined reports turned into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the data breaches that made headlines and affected 500 or more people.
Focusing on 141 hospitals in the United States that reported data breaches between 2009 and 2016. Major teaching hospitals, like Johns Hopkins, were more likely to report data breaches to HHS than nonteaching and smaller teaching hospitals.
The lead author and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, Ge Bai, Ph.D., said major teaching hospitals are probably more vulnerable to breaches, because more people at them can view private patient data. These people are either educating new healthcare professional or conducting medial research. The more people who can access data, the less secure it is, she notes.
People are still urged to utilize the major teaching hospitals, because they provide patients with lots of attention and cutting-edge treatment. However, everyone should secure their personal information and learn how to reduce the risk of fraud, if their information does get exposed.
- Only provide the personal information needed to secure medical care
- Ask the receptionist to shred any photocopies of driver’s license and social security card after it is scanned into the computer system
- Use caution when revealing medical and health information on social media platforms
- Carefully read all correspondence from healthcare providers
- Immediate action is necessary to prevent the occurrence from escalating into a major problem
- Become familiar with the process in the event of a breach