Survey shows extent of data breaches in healthcare

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A worrying level of data breaches has been discovered in the healthcare sector.

Hospitals and other healthcare providers may not be doing enough to protect sensitive information from being lost or falling into the wrong hands, a new survey has suggested.

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) carried out a widespread poll of workers including consultants, doctors, senior managers, facilities managers and IT managers, half of whom came from hospitals.

It was found that one in four had experienced some kind of data breach at their organisation, with two-thirds saying it came as a result of incorrect disposal of material.

Worryingly though, a third reported that theft was the reason for the data protection failure.

"This research underlines the need for the healthcare sector to continue to implement robust procedures to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands," warned the BSIA.

Respondents to the poll found that healthcare workers were particularly worried about patient records being lost, but financial data was also a key concern.

However, 38 per cent said they think the risk posed by misplaced or inadequately disposed data has fallen, even though statistics on hacking and information theft suggest the opposite may actually be true, particularly at a time when so many records are stored virtually.

Some healthcare providers are taking action though, as 62 per cent said they were using third party sources to assist them with data management and protection.

BSIA chairman Anthony Pearlgood said: "Effective information destruction needs to remain high on the agenda for the healthcare sector.

"There can be no room for complacency and, in the current climate of budgetary pressures, the temptation for management to take shortcuts with information destruction procedures like shredding needs to be resisted."

It means much more work may still need to be done before health secretary Jeremy Hunt can succeed with his target of making the NHS paperless by 2018.

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