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Data breaches are on the rise. Will your DSO be the next victim?

Nov. 24, 2023
DSOs are being targeted by hackers at an alarming rate, but the technology within your office devices can protect against patient data leaks while remaining HIPAA compliant. Here’s what you need to know.

More than ever before, the market is calling for secure office technology that guarantees privacy and protection of consumer data, especially in the health-care sector. Dental support organizations are being targeted by hackers at an alarming rate.

In 2022, a Dallas-based DSO with 72 locations throughout Texas experienced a data breach that affected more than one million patients.1 In order to keep up with this increasing number of patient data leaks while remaining HIPAA compliant, technology within individual DSO office devices must be up-to-date with the latest security features and be triple-protected to ensure a productive, continuous, and protected workflow.

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According to the American Dental Association, DSOs will experience a growth rate of nearly 100% between 2018 and 2025, and more than triple their current market share by 2035.2 While this rapid growth brings numerous benefits to both DSOs and patients, it also comes with risks. DSO offices have unique needs when it comes to office device security. In an industry where massive amounts of confidential patient information are internally distributed daily, privacy is not just a priority but a necessity. Without security features, devices are vulnerable and DSO data is in jeopardy of getting into the wrong hands.

Ensuring your devices are really your devices

When assessing your office equipment, ask, do you really know who is accessing your office devices at any given moment? It is easier than ever to hack office devices, such as printers, if the right measures are not in place. Given their smaller business model, DSOs are especially susceptible to attack. Features such as setting lock and integrated NFC (near-field communication) card readers may seem basic, but they can make or break your office’s security posture.

Maintaining HIPAA compliance to protect patient data

The health-care industry is still a paper-intensive industry with documents, forms, and patient records being printed, scanned, and shared. To remain HIPAA compliant, document security is nonnegotiable. But what happens if these documents get into the wrong hands? Many of the documents contain information that, if leaked, could result in consequences as severe as identity theft. In fact, 95% of all identity theft incidents reportedly come from compromised health-care records and documents.3 Secure PDF sharing and scanning and secure cloud sharing ensure that these documents remain private.

Keeping your circle small

Network security is a pivotal feature that ensures your DSO office is protected from potential threats. It is important to verify that your DSO office network access is tight-knit and remains uncompromised. To fend off hackers and avoid cyberattacks, it’s critical to equip your office devices with IP security, effective internet protocols, secure email access, and HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure). Without these features, your DSO office network is fair game for any hacker looking to compromise private patient records.

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As we saw in Texas, DSOs are extremely vulnerable to data breaches if they are not properly protected. With health-care breaches on the rise and DSOs becoming more and more popular, there’s a new target on their back. DSO offices must do everything they can to ensure their patients don’t fall victim to a data breach and potentially identity theft. Properly equipping your DSO office devices with these essential security features can limit outside access to sensitive information and ultimately protect your most important assets: your patients. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the November 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

References

  1. Data security breach reports. Ken Paxton Attorney General of Texas. https://oag.my.site.com/datasecuritybreachreport/apex/DataSecurityReportsPage
  2. Fialkoff S. Selling your practice isn’t a game of chance. Inside Dentistry. January 2022. https://www.aegisdentalnetwork.com/id/2022/01/dsos
  3. Cases currently under investigation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office for Civil Rights. Breach portal: notice to the secretary of HHS breach of unsecured protected health information. https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf

Jim Cropper has been part of the sales organization at Brother International for more than 20 years and is currently the director of sales. He leads a team providing health-care companies and education facilities with all aspects of document imaging and process management and support. This is accomplished via the award-winning portfolio of Brother printers, scanners, all-in-ones, and labeling solutions—and especially by working to provide solutions that improve productivity and workflow while reducing costs.

About the Author

Jim Cropper

Jim Cropper has been part of the sales organization at Brother International for more than 20 years and is currently the director of sales. He leads a team providing health-care companies and education facilities with all aspects of document imaging and process management and support. This is accomplished via the award-winning portfolio of Brother printers, scanners, all-in-ones, and labeling solutions—and especially by working to provide solutions that improve productivity and workflow while reducing costs. 

Updated October 5, 2023

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