To understand how health care is changing, simply open your fitness app or glance at your tracker to see many steps you’ve taken today.

Since an increasing amount of our health information is in electronic form, it can be used to improve outcomes and empower our personal engagement in our health, but we must also recognize the security risks of having that data in electronic form.

Seeing the issue

After the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act put an emphasis on what is known as meaningful use of patient information, more physicians and providers have been turning to electronic health records to better engage patients and make information more portable. As a result, our health data is fast becoming just as digitized as our financial data, which makes it just as vulnerable to security breaches.

"As many as 91 percent of small health care practices in North America say they have suffered a data breach."

Organizations like the College of Health care Information Management Executives (CHIME) are committed to helping secure our data and recently formed the Association of Executives in Health care Information Security (AEHIS) for the purpose of providing education, networking and support to our nation’s health care chief security officers. In most health care settings, it is the responsibility of the chief security officer to safeguard physical assets and information in both physical and digital form.

Value in numbers

However, personal health records have become high-value targets since they can be exploited for medical identity theft, fraud and stolen prescriptions. One in 10 Americans has been affected by a large health data breach, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. What’s more, personal health information (PHI) is worth roughly 50 times more than credit card or Social Security numbers.

As many as 91 percent of small health care practices in North America say they have suffered a data breach. Meanwhile, according to a Price Waterhouse Cooper survey, 74 percent of health providers believed their security activities were effective, but after an audit, only 22 percent actually met all advised security criteria.

As we move further into the era of patient empowerment and information digitization, the onus is increasingly falling to patients to understand how their data is being used. Make a habit of asking caregivers, hospitals and health partners how your information is being secured, but also take all appropriate actions to secure it yourself.