The Age Of The Hacker: Why Malpractice Insurance Is More Important Than Ever

The recent cyber attack on Sony shook the entertainment industry, but the implications were far from limited to Hollywood players. With so much information stored digitally, sensitive personal information is always just one click away from being discovered by unwelcome parties. And while malpractice insurance and dental malpractice insurance have always been an important part of protecting healthcare professionals from financial distress, these insurance services are more essential in the cyber era. Read on to learn why the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks, and what you can do to protect both your patients and your practice.

A Closer Look at the Problem

In the fall of 2014, hackers from China broke into the computer network of one of the U.S.'s largest hospital operators, Community Health Systems Inc. In the process, they gained access to the personal medical records of a whopping 4.5 million patients. This led to the FBI issuing a warning to all healthcare providers about the importance of safeguarding their practices against cyber attacks. The announcement was hardly rash: 2013, 40 percent of health care organizations reported having been victims of cyber attacks -- a significant jump from 20 percent in the five year period since 2009.

Why the Healthcare Industry?

The U.S. healthcare industry is a $3 trillion industry, and grows by the day. As many hospitals and health care organizations struggle to keep up with the boom, they are still dependent on antiquated computer systems which leave them vulnerable to security risks.  

And while the finance industry may seem like the most lucrative target for cyber criminals, the fact is that the healthcare industry is equally alluring due to the resale value of private medical information. There is a bustling underground market for this data, which can be used for everything from illegally buying drugs and medical equipment to filing false claims with insurers.

An incidental consequence? Cyber attacks can also affect and alter patient records meaning that critical information -- such as blood type and drug allergies -- may no longer be accurate.

Even worse? While most people are aware of credit card fraud and take ample preventative measures against it, medical identity theft often goes undiscovered by both patients and providers. In some cases, criminals have access to this information for years without being discovered, wreaking havoc on the lives of patients in the process....and threatening the livelihood of medical practitioners.

What Can Healthcare Practitioners Do?

Despite the many alarm bells, many of today's healthcare organizations are far from prepared to fend of today's savvy hackers. And why should they be? Their limited resources are most directly focused on their business priority: healthy patients. As hospitals and private practices continue to adjust to the digitization of personal health records, more and more data becomes vulnerable to accidental exposure. 

But just because your priority is to patient care doesn't exempt you from the strict rules and regulations related to protecting the privacy of patient data. As stolen information constitutes an increased risk, insurance solutions designed to respond to data breaches are of essential value. 

Aside from focusing on security measures, what else can you do to safeguard not just your patients, but also your practice? Invest in medical or dental malpractice insurance with ample coverage. According to a recent USA Today article, cybercrime can costs businesses thousands of dollars. Incorporating cyber crime liability into your malpractice insurance can help protect your practice -- and your reputation -- from irrecoverable losses.

Running a dental practice is not the same as it was 50, 25 or even five years ago. As technology continues to march onward, it's essential to keep pace with the changing landscape of healthcare and adjust accordingly. As EHRs are the clear wave of the future, it's essential not just to protect your digital data, but also to protect yourself from the fallout of almost-inevitable data breaches.