Health care data breaches hit 30M patients and counting
WASHINGTON — The recent theft of 4.5 million medical records by Chinese hackers highlights one undeniable truth about health care data: it's valuable, and bad people want it. In this latest incident, hackers reportedly stole personal data from Community Health Systems patients, including their Social Security numbers, which is an especially coveted piece of information if you want to steal someone's identity. But it appears that patients' medical data and credit card numbers were not stolen in this case.
Thanks to some tougher federal reporting requirements for health-care data breaches in recent years, we have a better sense of when patient information goes missing or might have been inappropriately accessed by someone. Tougher breach notification requirements were tied to a provision in the 2009 stimulus act that included billions of dollars in incentives to encourage electronic health record adoption, in part to allay fears that health care's digital transformation put our health records at greater risk.
The numbers aren't pretty.
Since federal reporting requirements kicked in, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' database of major breach reports (those affecting 500 people or more) has tracked 944 incidents affecting personal information from about 30.1 million people. A majority of those records are tied to theft (17.4 million people), followed by data loss (7.2 million people), hacking (3.6 million) and unauthorized access accounts (1.9 million people), according to a Washington Post analysis of HHS data. These numbers don't include the Community Health Systems data breach.
There are also many more incidents of smaller-scale breaches. In 2012, for example, HHS received 21,194 reports of smaller breaches affecting 165,135 people, according to the department's most recent report to Congress. Similar numbers were reported in 2011.
In all, data breaches cost the industry $5.6 billion each year, estimates the Ponemon Institute, a security firm.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- FCC chairman floats ‘hybrid’ ruling on net neutrality
- Mexican judge releases retired Marine held for 8 months in jail
- Quarantine lifted, Maine nurse given right to roam
- Medicare paid for drug coverage of patients who had died, investigators say
- Hospital: Girl, 14, dies after Washington state school shooting
- U.S. Department of Agriculture mismanaged rural program, federal audit shows
- Space tourism rattled by test flight explosion of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
- Federal civil rights charges called ‘unlikely’ in Ferguson shooting
- Man guilty in Florida A&M University band hazing death
- NYPD’s highest black official quits
- New York agrees to swift settlement with family of Marine who died in jail cell