Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Could data breaches affect patient care in hospitals?

When you go to the doctor, you likely go with some basic expectations. You probably expect the facilities to be clean and the physicians to be qualified, for instance. You likely also expect that any information you share with your doctor will be documented properly and kept safe.

Unfortunately, that last expectation may not be realized if the hospital you visit has experienced a breach in their data systems. In fact, according to one researcher, at least 2,100 deaths a year can be tied to data breaches.

Data breaches are not uncommon in the healthcare industry, and such facilities are popular targets among hackers. When a party gains access to a facility's data without permission, that party could view medical records and personal information, making it possible to steal patient identities. It is also possible that a breach could result in disrupted systems within the hospital.

Because of how sensitive healthcare data is, breaches in healthcare facilities can have considerable consequences for patients. Not only can a breach result in identity theft, it can also lead to delayed care and adversely affect the quality and accuracy of care that patients might receive. As this study reveals, hospitals that experience a data breach reportedly provide worse quality care after the breach.

Sadly, hospital data systems and IT resources are often lacking with regard to cybersecurity. They may be outdated, underfunded or not well understood. While updating and securing these systems is easier said than done, hospitals should take cybersecurity seriously, as the consequences of not doing so could be dire.

When hospitals fail in their duty to keep patients safe, there may be grounds to pursue a medical malpractice claim if that failure leads to illness, injury or death. Discussing the options with an experienced medical malpractice attorney can be crucial in these situations.

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