The growing threat dentists may not be prepared for

General dentists may not be prepared for a cybersecurity incident as the possibility of these attacks grows, according to Huzefa Kapadia, DDS.

The threat of cybersecurity incidents has grown in dentistry along with the overall healthcare sector. The FBI also recently issued a warning to the American Dental Association and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons regarding a credible cybersecurity threat toward oral surgery practices.

Healthcare leaders recently experienced what the American Medical Association called the "most significant cyberattack" on healthcare in U.S. history when Change Healthcare, a revenue cycle management subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group's Optum, was hit with a cyberattack that affected dental, medical and pharmaceutical companies' abilities to process claims.

Becker's has reported on several data security incidents affecting dental practices this year, including Burke, Va.-based Northern Virginia Oral, Maxillofacial and Implant Surgery and Phoenix-based Risas Dental & Braces. Several DSOs have also been hit with cyberattacks in recent years, including Aspen Dental, ProSmile and Great Expressions Dental Centers

Dr. Kapadia, owner of Detroit Sterling Dental and Kapadia Dental Care in Waterford, Mich., recently told Becker's he has delayed transitioning to digital charting because of the possibility for future cybersecurity incidents at his practice.

"I'm not sure if I really want to do digital charts for a while. I think I may wait. It's kind of scary. It seems like there's no way to stop them when they hack into your system," Dr. Kapadia said. "The problem is everyone is paying these hackers because there's no way to function without paying them. Of course they're going to keep doing it because they know they can get paid, so it's kind of frustrating."

Although the group behind the FBI's warning for the dental industry threatened to target oral surgery practices, the FBI said it believes general dentistry and other specialty practices could be targets in the future.

Dr. Kapadia said he does not think most general dentists are currently prepared to handle a cybersecurity attack. 

"If they can hack into these larger systems that are much more complicated than a dental office, I think most general dentists are probably not prepared at all to deal with something like that. I'm assuming most maybe wouldn't even pay," Dr. Kapadia said. "If it's a very significant sum of money, they'd just be like, 'Okay, well I don't think I can pay this.' I don't know what we would do at that point. It's a problem if all your patient records are electronic."

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