Data breach
Medical Procedures

Hospitals and Data Breaches

People who are hospitalized have many things to worry about besides a personal data breach, yet this is happening at a startling rate: recent research co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar found nearly 1,800 occurrences of large data breaches in patient information over a seven-year period.

The study, by Xuefeng “John” Jiang, MSU associate professor of accounting, and colleagues from Johns Hopkins and Ball State universities, is published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The data breaches occurred in health care facilities ranging from UC Davis Medical Center in California to Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan.

“Our findings underscore the critical need for increased data protection in the health care industry,” Jiang said. “While the law requires health care professionals and systems to cross-share patient data, the more people who can access data, the less secure it is.”

The researchers examined Department of Health and Human Services data for the period October 2009-December 2016. By law, hospitals covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, must notify HHS of any breach affecting 500 or more individuals within 60 days from the discovery of the breach.

What they found was alarming:

Healthcare providers reported 1,225 of the 1,798 recorded breaches, while business associates, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses reported the rest.

257 breaches reported by 216 hospitals.

33 hospitals, many of them major teaching facilities, experienced more than one breach.

This research reinforces the critical trade-off patients face: healthcare systems having access to information they need, versus a hacker planning to user your personal data for illegal purposes.