Hospitals’ Response to Data Breaches May Be Impacting Patient Health

A study presented last week at the 4A Security and Compliance Conference in Philadelphia, found an increase in a common measure of mortality rates at hospitals following data breaches. However, there did not appear to be any correlation between the type of breach or the number of records affected by the breach, leading the researchers to conclude that it was the response to the breach, and not the breach itself that led to the higher mortality rates. This may be an indication that clamp-downs on security made it more difficult for hospital staff to provide the same level of care as they had before the breach.

It may be that more access to patient data means quicker responses by hospital staff, based on better information, and with better outcomes. Showing that the balancing act between usability and security is always tricky. Completely unsecured data would certainly, at least in the short run, be readily available to hospital staff, but that may not be ideal for other reasons. Completely inaccessible data is surely not helpful to hospital staff, nor to patients. Finding the balancing point is challenging. A balanced and well-thought out reaction to an incident, that considers likely unintended consequences is key.

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