When patients seek care from a mental or behavioral health provider, they put their utmost trust and confidence in their health professional. Frequently, what a patient reveals in the comfort of a psychiatric care specialist’s office he or she may not divulge to others, not even to family or close friends. Likewise, providers are bound by privacy protections and the understanding that a patient would rather keep such details a secret from most people.

Patients express the inner-workings of their psyches, their fears and desires, the matters that upset them, and many compromising and personal details. Providers keep detailed notes and profiles of their patients, which serve as written documentation of potentially embarrassing details. Needless to say, almost anyone would be horrified if this information about them became public.

This very scenario has happened. Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and other mental and behavioral health specialists are not immune to cyberattacks. An attack on this branch of the healthcare industry means psychological biographies of patients could be on full display.

Delving into Patients’ Minds – and Data

In the United States, mental and behavioral health providers must adhere to HIPAA guidelines to protect patient privacy and data. However, healthcare providers—especially medical—have increasingly become targets of data breaches despite HIPAA mandates. Outside the United States, many countries respect privacy and have protection mandates for client information between patients and providers.

In 2020, a particularly bad data breach hit Vastaamo, a psychological services provider in the Northern European country of Finland. A patient named Jere revealed that he had received a ransomware notice demanding €200 worth of Bitcoin within 24 hours if he wanted his information to remain private. If he did not do so, the hackers swore to extend the deadline to 48 hours at double the ransom. Jere was one of about 30,000 people affected in this breach across Finland.

In his sessions, what Jere revealed in confidence to his therapist included abusive parents, self-injury, and substance abuse. He was unaware that Vastaamo stored this information digitally, so it was a shock to see how much of his information had been compromised.

The issue with Vastaamo was a security flaw in its system, which made it easy for hackers to exploit information. This attack on Jere’s records had not only an impact on their rights to privacy, but came at a considerable cost to the provider. In early 2021, the District Court in Helsinki received Vastaamo’s declaration of bankruptcy.

Recurring Nightmare

In the United States, when it comes to data breaches in the healthcare industry, much focus is put on major medical centers. However, a number of attacks on mental and behavioral healthcare providers have recently occurred, affecting patient data in the hundreds of thousands.

In November 2020, AspenPointe of Colorado Springs was hit with a cyberattack, exposing the data of nearly 300,000 people. This system supports a range of issues, including psychiatric assessments and substance abuse. Although this was the largest mental healthcare breach of 2020, it was not the only one.

Well-Being for IT Systems

Patients seeking psychiatric care make themselves emotionally vulnerable to their providers and put a lot of trust in them with these issues. A breach of this information can not only undermine the patients’ faith and trust in the provider, but also can put the provider in serious jeopardy from a legal standpoint.

SecureDrive products help all branches of the healthcare industry, mental and behavioral health included, to meet HIPAA standards. Although we have individual products that work well to help safeguard confidential data, a comprehensive solution for mental and behavioral health providers can help to further protect against breaches.

SecureDrive external drives provide a protected storage and backup solution, and can hold up to eight terabytes of data. The smaller SecureUSB flash drives offer the same level of protection in a smaller package. All products require user authentication to unlock and feature hardware encryption and brute-force anti-hacking protection.

To learn more about how you can protect your patients’ data and safeguard your practice, contact a SecureDrive security expert today at 424-363-8535.

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