Healthcare Confidence Lessons from Target and PayPal

The holidays are, of course, a time of year when friends and family make merry. Unfortunately, they are also increasingly becoming the best time of year for theft. A trip to my local YMCA between Thanksgiving and Christmas saw notices posted throughout the parking lot and facility alerting patrons to the higher likelihood of car break-ins and locker room theft during this time. How festive!

These types of crimes are becoming almost passé now that high-tech cyber crimes have become easier to commit. Perhaps you were one of the 40 million Target customers who recently received a letter from its CEO Gregg Steinhafel regarding the recent security breach and financial data theft. Steinhafel wrote, after the event, that:

“We understand that a situation like this creates stress and anxiety about the safety of your payment card data at Target. Our brand has been built on a 50-year foundation of trust with our guests, and we want to assure you that the cause of this issue has been addressed and you can shop with confidence at Target.”

That note, and a 10% discount offer to shoppers following the announcement of the breach, did little to help Target’s reputation immediately bounce back. A consumer perception poll by YouGov saw Target’s brand popularity fall 45 points.

Perhaps you also received a note from PayPal, proactively communicating all of the ways in which it protects its customers’ financial information. It seems to me hospitals can stand to learn a thing or two from Target and PayPal. Health data breaches not only mean legal headaches and potentially very large financial penalties, but they also negatively impact a hospital’s brand, in turn causing patients to think twice about where to have their next procedure.

What type of facility would you rather put your personal health information in the hands of? One like PayPal, who proactively reaches out to assure you its doing everything it can to protect your information, or one like Target, that alerts you to a breach several weeks after the fact?

It’s a valid question heading into a new year. As reported at, “[H]ealthcare will face ‘a perfect storm’ for breaches in 2014. The Affordable Care Act, with its increased activity, as well as more people signing up for health insurance, will only make the target that much larger. [A new report from Experian Data Breach Resolution] predicts the opening of a floodgate for healthcare breaches in 2014.”

Here’s a word to the wise healthcare consumer: Do a little digging regarding your facility of choice and its history of breaches. Ask their customer service department what they are doing to ensure your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. And, don’t allow yourself to suffer from data breach fatigue. Though data theft is becoming increasingly commonplace, it won’t make the repercussions any easier to bear if they end up directly affecting your bank account.

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