VA Posts: Lost Smartphones, Costly Security Breach

Department of Veteran Administration (VA) employees and contractors report a number of security breach incidents per month, so the world’s largest health care system is posting them on-line.

According to an article in Healthcare IT News, the VA has to present a report on patient information breaches to Congress monthly after a number of embarrassing releases last year. Most of the security breaches aren’t significant, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said.

For example, losing smart phones is a common security problem at VA, as it is elsewhere. In July, employees lost 13 Blackberry phones compared with 24 missing in June, the VA official said.

It’s difficult to impose consequences for the losses. There isn’t a cost benefit to denying the issuance of another smart phone to physicians and other professionals who lose them because the devices are inexpensive relative to the productivity gains they provide, Baker said.

“I don’t take losing a couple of hundred dollars of taxpayer money lightly,” Baker said. “But compared with a doctor that we may be paying $300,000 a year, I don’t want them spending time trying to figure how to get a new Blackberry. I want them to have a new Blackberry in their hands so they can be certain of providing patient services.”

Security breach reports to Congress are accessible on the VA website.

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