Why Physicians Need Improved Cybersecurity Education
A recent survey conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the consulting firm Accenture surveyed 1,300 U.S. physicians to find out about their experiences and attitudes towards cybersecurity. Unsettling findings in the survey revealed a lack of cybersecurity education among physicians.
The five key findings of the survey as reported by the AMA and Accenture are as follows:
- Cyberattacks in physician practices are common
- Cyberattacks cause operational interruptions
- Physicians think that ePHI sharing is important
- Physicians rely on third-party security assistance
- New technologies bring new challenge
Cyberattacks – Common Practice in Physician Practices
Let’s take a closer look at each of these takeaways starting with number one, cyberattacks in physician practices are common. According to the survey, an astonishing 83% of physicians admitted to experiencing some form of a cyberattack. Of those attacks, 55% were a result of a phishing attack, while 48% were due to a computer infection as a result of a virus or malware being installed via a download. Another significant cyberattack uncovered by the survey was due to insiders inappropriately accessing or attempting to access ePHI, coming in at 37% of all cyberattacks.
With over four in five surveyed physicians already having experienced a cyberattack, it does not come as a surprise that physicians have concerns about future attacks, with over half indicating they are extremely or very concerned. As for the areas causing the most concern in terms of future attacks, 74% indicated concern for business interruption with 74% also feeling the greatest concern for EHR security.
Cyberattacks Lead to Operational Interruptions
The survey uncovered that in most cases, cyberattacks led to operational interruptions for surveyed physicians. Over half of the encountered cyberattacks resulted in operational interruptions of 4 hours or less. Additional findings indicate that 20% of attacks lead to 5-7 hours of downtime, 12% of physicians were down for 1-2 days while 4% faced interruptions of more than 2 days.
Downtime as a result of a cyberattack can cause significant issues for practices and patients alike. By improving awareness and education among physicians on the risks associated with downtime, steps can be taken to ensure appropriate backup procedures are in place.
ePHI Sharing is Important – According to Physicians
When asked about the importance of being able to share ePHI with entities outside of the surveyed physicians’ health system to effectively provide quality healthcare, 85% of physicians responded that it is “extremely” or “very” important.
With physicians agreeing that sharing ePHI is pertinent to effectively provide quality care, the need for healthy cybersecurity practices among all physicians is strong, as just one mistake by one physician could lead to detrimental consequences for many.
Reliance on Third-Party Security Assistance
Nearly half of surveyed physicians indicated they had an in-house security official. 26% of those surveyed responded that they are outsourcing their security management.
The survey also explored where training content is developed that is being utilized by physicians. 37% of physicians indicated that their IT vendor is responsible for developing their training content, while 20% responded someone within their organization develops it. Unfortunately, 18% of physicians don’t know where the content for their training comes from.
New Technologies = New Challenges
Over half of surveyed physicians reported that they will be adopting telemedicine practices within the next 1-2 years, and over half also plan to adopt patient-generated health data. These numbers indicate that EHRs are not or will not be the only means for using technology for medical practices in the near future.
An increase in new technology in the healthcare industry means that security practices must be improved to protect that technology and the patients whose data is at risk as a result.
By improving cybersecurity education and awareness among physicians (and their practices and employees), patients can feel more confident that their data is secure and that their health care provider is taking the protection of that data seriously.
This article was originally published on HIPAA Secure Now! and is republished here with permission. HIPAA Secure Now offers annual online subscriptions to help covered entities and business associates keep up with compliance. Learn more here.