- Nearly three-quarters of healthcare professionals are concerned that patient health information is being sent through unsecured tools, with 15% "extremely concerned" about that possibility, according to a new survey from hospital communications firm Spok.
- That was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as 35% of respondents said the crisis impacted potentially unsecured data transmission "considerably or a great deal." Less than 20% said it had no impact.
- The report also noted increases in burnout for healthcare workers at all levels. The vast majority of those surveyed said the pandemic had increased levels of burnout, especially among clinicians.
The report hits on key stresses in the U.S. healthcare system that were pain points before COVID-19 but are now major threats.
As providers scrambled to treat surges of COVID-19 inpatients and also create or massively scale up telehealth services, tasks like cybersecurity sometimes went by the wayside. Creators of ransomware, in particular, have seized on this opportunity.
As the pandemic hit, breach reports shot up more than 35% in the back half of 2020 and one-third of organizations said they were hit with ransomware that year, with well more than half of the attacks successful in encrypting data.
"Looking ahead, hospitals and health systems may need to bolster initiatives to meet HIPAA standards for PHI protection and to avoid noncompliance, reputational harm, and serious financial penalties," according to the report.
Burnout among healthcare workers has long been a problem, but the enormous stress from the pandemic is pushing it to higher levels, causing more people to consider leaving the profession altogether.
The stress continues with new waves of COVID-19 despite the availability of vaccines for adults and teenagers.
To address burnout, those surveyed suggested better workflow efficiency and data exchange as well as more support from leadership.
The report also addressed alarm fatigue, which can be a threat to patient safety. Respondents mostly blamed burdensome workloads and a lack of integration into clinical workflow as causing the issue.
Spok surveyed 200 healthcare professionals, including nurses, executives and IT staff, in July.