The Long-Term Effects of Cybersecurity Problems on Your Dental Practice

May 20, 2021 | 3 min read

The immediate effect of a cyberattack is apparent. For example, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack can bring down your website, preventing patients from booking appointments online. A ransomware attack can block you from accessing patient data and deliver dental services. Furthermore, you may have to pay for fines and fees, services to help recover your data, and the man-hour to notify patients affected by the incident.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The long-term effects of security problems can be just as devastating, if not more so, than these immediate consequences. Here are some of the most common impacts, which highlight the importance of cybersecurity in dentistry. 

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Financial Impacts

The various fines and fees you may incur (e.g., HIPAA penalty) are just the beginning. You may need to pay for forensic investigations to determine the cause of the data breach. You may also have to pay for mandatory credit monitoring and other remediation services (e.g., identity theft repair) for patients whose data was compromised.

The average cost of a breach that involves personally identifiable information (PII) is $150 per record. It goes up to $175 per record if the data is stolen in a malicious attack. These costs are spread out over a few years, with 44% incurred in the first year, 32% in the second year, and 21% in the third year and beyond.

Reputational Damages

Trust is a critical factor when it comes to patient retention for dental practices. Not only is it less costly to retain current patients, but they also tend to spend more on your services. The tarnished reputation caused by a cybersecurity event can therefore be very devastating to a dental practice.

69% of consumers would avoid a business that had suffered a data breach, while 29% said they would never visit again. Not to mention, these patients may tell others about their experience and deter new patients from coming to your practice. 

Downtime and Labor Costs

A cyberattack often leads to extensive downtime that prevents you from delivering treatments and generating revenue. You’d likely have to spend days recovering patient information, further delaying your ability to resume normal services. Not to mention, the loss of patient data can impact your capability to deliver the best outcomes in the future.

The many remedial activities will require a lot of time from your staff. You may have to hire outside specialists to restore your system and retrieve data. You may also need to work with an external PR consultant to repair your reputation and regain the trust of your community.

Litigation Issues

The legal consequences of a breach can haunt your practice for years to come. Once you have notified the authority about the attack, it may take over a year to conclude a regulatory investigation. Subsequent litigations (e.g., civil lawsuits) could take even longer as you navigate the evolving and complex landscape of privacy and data security laws.

In many cases, investigations and litigation will require that you provide extensive logs and carry out audits by external parties -- adding to the time and money you need to spend on remediating the impact of the incident.

Ongoing Theft

Since PII can fetch a good price on the dark web, hackers who have infiltrated your system may simply lay low so they can keep stealing patient information without getting noticed. If you don’t conduct regular risk and vulnerability assessments [ LINK TO BLOG 1 ], these criminals can lurk in your network for months, or even years, undetected. This often increases the magnitude of the consequences when the breach is finally discovered.

Preventing Long-Term Impacts of Cybersecurity Incidents In Dentistry

Dental offices that use on-premise dental practice management software are often more vulnerable to attacks because they don’t have the in-house expertise to stay ahead of hackers. That’s why more dental practices are switching to cloud dental software to alleviate the many cybersecurity risks and prevent the high long-term costs of cyberattacks while staying HIPAA compliant

tab32’s cloud dental software offers many security features to ensure the safety of your patients’ PII. From end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication to frequent updates and comprehensive backup and recovery, you can rest assured that your data is fully protected. 


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