According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, computers have played a role in the health care industry since the 1960s. This is when discussions began about how to make fuller use of computers for decision-making, access to literature, and viewing patients’ test results. Over the decades, the shift toward computerization in health care has sped up as doctors, nurses, and other professionals make full use of available tech resources.
This upswing in computer usage has brought with it a growing need for cyber security experts who can prevent data breaches and make sure health care information stays protected.
The Health Care Industry is Particularly Vulnerable to Data Breaches
In 2014, there were 761 data breaches, and more than 300 of those took place in the health care industry. This is according to an Information Age report that commented on a study by the Identity Theft Resource Center. The study found that more than 83 million records were exposed. More than eight million of those were in health care. For the sake of comparison, consider that only slightly over one million records in the banking industry were exposed.
Why do hackers zero in on health records? According to a report from Reuters published in late 2014, “Your medical information is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market.” The Reuters article went on to note that criminals can use the stolen medical data to get access to billing information or to get their hands on drugs that they can later resell.
A Shortage of Cyber Security Professionals
While data breaches remain a significant worry for much of the health care industry, many health care teams do not have the expertise needed to protect their information. Modern Healthcare cited the example of a medical center in California that had a talented cyber security team of five people, two of whom were recruited by other businesses.
An article from Tech Target commented on one of the reasons behind the scramble for cyber security experts. Many IT experts, although they have a basic knowledge of the methods needed to protect data, do not have the specialized skills to keep up with advanced security threats. This lack of expertise may provide substantial opportunities for cyber security professionals and those seeking an advanced degree in the field.
Filling the Cyber Security Need
The cyber security shortage is not unique to the health care realm. The article from Tech Target quoted an expert who said that “a fairly large but unknowable portion” of H-1B visas issued in the United States are for cyber security experts from other countries.
Although filling the need for cyber security workers can happen via workers from outside the United States, another solution might come from within the country. At Maryville University, we offer an online bachelor’s degree in cyber security and strive to provide the workforce with the individuals it needs to protect health care records from breaches. These courses focus on such things as general cyber security, offensive cyber security, or defensive cyber security — all of which might prove valuable to employers in the health care industry.