The vast majority of U.S. physicians say their practices have experienced a cybersecurity incident, as the nation’s leading physician organization said the healthcare sector needs to increase cybersecurity support for medical practices.

A survey of 1,300 physicians found that 83 percent of respondents have experienced a cyberattack, and 74 percent of respondents say they were most concerned that future attacks could interrupt their ability to deliver care in their practices, while a similar percent say it could compromise the security of patient records. Some 53 percent say future attacks could jeopardize patient safety.

The research was released Tuesday by the American Medical Association and Accenture.

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Two-thirds of surveyed clinicians who have had a cyberattack experienced downtime of as long as four hours, and about 30 percent of medium and large practices had nearly a full day of downtime.

David Barbe, MD

Respondents to the survey indicated they are increasing efforts to improve security to counteract threats to data. Some 49 percent of those surveyed have an in-house security officer, and 60 percent of respondents say they would pay a contractor to implement a security framework for the practice.

Most physicians believe that secure exchange of electronic health information helps improve care and they are looking for help, says David Barbe, MD, president of the AMA. “More support from the government, technology and medical sectors would help physicians with a proactive cybersecurity defense to better ensure the availability, confidentiality and integrity of healthcare data.”

In particular, the support and tools surveyed physicians most want includes tips for good cyber hygiene, a guide on conducting a risk assessment, an easily digestible HIPAA summary and a simplified checklist of HIPAA guidelines.

“Physician practices should not rely on compliance alone to enhance their security profile,” says Kaveh Safavi, MD, head of Accenture’s global health practice. “Keeping pace with the sophistication of cyberattacks demands that physicians strengthen their capabilities, build resilience and invest in new technologies to support a foundation of digital trust with patients.”

More information on the survey results can be found here.

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