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Healthcare industry needs IT security experts

February 04, 2014

Personal health information (PHI) is strictly regulated to maintain patient confidentiality and prevent identity theft. As healthcare providers continue to expand their technological resources, from electronic health records (EHR) to integrated sensory devices, the volume and relevance of health data is expanding exponentially. For that reason, data security is a top concern for medical organizations and few executives feel confident that their organization is fully prepared. Consequently, security experts should consider looking for IT jobs in the health industry.

Healthcare data breaches
According to a recent study by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership that aims to improve outcomes for health and government IT, 61 percent of global healthcare organizations experienced a data incident in the past year. Including security breaches, data loss and unplanned outages, these incidents amounted to about $1.6 billion in expenses, the report found. 

Therefore, healthcare organizations are seeking expertise to help them protect against data loss while transforming their technological systems to provide better services. The report indicated that 82 percent are not fully prepared for disaster recovery in the event of downtime or an equipment failure. The complexities of healthcare IT and data regulations are creating demand for professionals who can assist with the top causes of data problems, as determined by the study:

  • Security breaches: commonly caused by malware and viruses, outsider attacks, physical equipment security and user error
  • Data loss: usually due to equipment failure and loss of power
  • Unplanned outages: from hardware failure, loss of power, software failure and data corruption

Already, the health industry is a prime sector for IT careers, given the general need for experts to help implement EHRs and other technology. The seriousness of security concerns may cause an increase in demand for IT professionals who can develop secure solutions, implement system infrastructure in the most effective possible way and maintain security for the system. Medical facilities with short-term projects or problems may also turn to IT consulting for help with specific needs. 

IT professionals need to lead by example
Consultants and staff alike should make sure they are well-informed about PHI regulations and security protocols for any type of project they're completing in the health industry. Recently, a medical provider in Alberta, Canada, announced that a laptop stolen from an IT consultant contained unencrypted information about over 600,000 patients. Incidents like these serve as a reminder that IT professionals need to implement strong security solutions—and they also need to make sure they abide by best practices at all times.

With the healthcare industry rising as a job growth leader  in general, according to US News, and healthcare IT expanding in multiple directions, technology professionals can expect good prospects for IT jobs in healthcare. Security will remain a top concern, whether IT experts are specifically assigned security projects or simply need to maintain best practices while working on other aspects within health IT systems. It's worth taking note of the big focus areas, as expertise in these areas is likely to be in high demand: Encryption of PHI, EHR Meaningful Use requirements, breach prevention and detection as well as disaster recovery will likely be big priorities for healthcare executives in the coming years.

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