According to a report to Congress from The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there have been almost 8 million records breached since 2009. That is a staggering number. What is worse it that the number of data breaches continues to increase.
Another way of looking at it is that we are only in the beginning of Stage 1 of Meaningful Use. That means a lot more medical practices and hospitals will be implementing EMRs in the next few years. At this rate the number of records that could be breached could be 20 million or more.
There is a point where patients and consumers of healthcare services lose confidence in the system. When that tipping point happens I am not sure anyone knows but it is a real possibility. Unchecked and without fundamental changes to protecting patient data we could be heading for that fate.
The question is what can be done to stop this epidemic of patient data breaches? HHS has announced that they will perform 150 HIPAA audits in the next year. Will this change healthcare providers’ mindset? Will this make them take HIPAA and patient data security more seriously? I don’t think anyone can answer this but it is a step in the right direction.
One thing is clear, that without some fundamental change the amount of patient data breaches will continue to increase and trust in electronic medical records will be hurt. This goes in the exact opposite direction that the government is pushing with Meaningful Use and incentives to implement EMRs.