The cost of a data breach cannot only be measured in dollars and cents for those who deal with confidential patient information. It must also be measured by how compromised patients feel about the healthcare institution in question and the healthcare industry as a whole once they discover that their detailed health records are now in the hands of unscrupulous cyber criminals. The following overview and statistics provide some insight into the impact that a data breach has on patient-doctor relationships.

The 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study offers in-depth insight into how patients will react in the event of a data breach. The study found that patients expect better data security from healthcare industries than they do from regular businesses. It noted that the average company loses about $4.2 million as the result of a data breach, which is not surprising given the fact that up to 75% of all consumers will not do business with an entity that they do not feel can adequately protect consumers’ personal information. At the same time, the study found that there are a few important measures a medical institution can take to reduce losses and restore at least some patient trust. The speed with which the medical institution contains the breach will have an impact on patient trust. The faster the breach is contained; the less money is likely to be lost. The number of records compromised by the breach will also play a role in restoring patient-doctor relationships as patients are less likely to trust large healthcare organizations that lose millions of records than small hospitals, clinics or other medical organizations that lose fewer records. Furthermore, an organization’s response to the data breach plays an essential role in restoring trust. Those who opt to use automated security technologies will be considered more trustworthy than those who do not invest in healthcare IT security in the wake of a breach.

Nonetheless, a medical institution can expect serious, negative consequences in the days and weeks following the discovery of a data breach. The fact that consumers hold medical institutions to a high standard, coupled with HIPAA guidelines requiring a medical institution to publicize news of a data breach as widely as possible, makes it extremely difficult to regain patient trust. This is particularly true when patients discover that their data was compromised months before they were notified. In the event of a significant breach or a data breach affecting a large, well known medical institution, intense media coverage may last for months, further impairing patient-doctor relationships. It is also important to note that patients aren’t the only ones who struggle in the wake of a data breach. Doctors, nurses and others who work in the medical center are affected as well. News of the data breach has a chilling effect on hospital morale, making it difficult for medical professionals who aren’t at fault in the first place to rebuild a relationship with distrustful patients.

It should also be noted that data breaches in the healthcare industry don’t just affect the healthcare providers who have failed to protect valuable patient data. The breaches affect the industry overall as is evidenced by a recent Frost & Sullivan white paper showing that over 60% of consumers trust digital data storage less than they did two years ago. Once again, HIPAA guidelines play a significant role in making it difficult to restore trust as consumers may not remember the names of healthcare organizations affected by data breaches, but they will remember reading about healthcare-related data breaches and any sordid details related to them. Unfortunately, many hospital administrators and medical professionals don’t realize just how significant an impact data breaches have on the industry. An overwhelming number of leaders believe that consumers trust them more now than they did a couple of years ago when this is not at all the case.

Medical facilities and healthcare companies that have suffered a data breach have lost an enormous amount of patient trust that is difficult if not impossible to fully regain. Even so, healthcare facilities that have not suffered a data breach have also lost some patient trust due to a continual stream of negative news about healthcare-related patient record security breaches. Thankfully, some measures can be taken to maintain patient confidence by preventing data breaches or addressing them effectively once they occur. One crucial first step is to get professional help from a healthcare IT company that specializes in offering a high level of security for all electronic medical records. Reliable IT Healthcare has decades of experience handling medical records following HIPAA guidelines. The company provides consulting and managed services to large and small medical institutions alike, enabling healthcare providers to focus on providing quality care without worrying about the security of invaluable patient records.