Vital Signs Blog

Nearly 1 in 8 Americans have had medical records exposed in breaches

The number of healthcare data breaches has risen significantly in recently weeks. A review of recent updates to the “wall of shame” breach notification list kept by the Office for Civil Rights at HHS reveals that this year, 95 breaches have compromised the healthcare records of nearly 6.2 million individuals. That brings the total number of records exposed since the list began being published in September 2009 to 38.6 million.

Last month, a criminal gang with links to China swiped demographic information on 4.5 million patients at Community Health Systems.

That breach was posted to the civil rights offices' list Aug. 29. When it hit the wall, it became the second-largest breach in OCR reporting history.

The Community hack is topped only by the loss of personnel records for 4.9 military, their families and retirees in 2011. Reportedly, the records were placed on backup drives and stolen from the car of an employee of Science Applications International Corp., working under a business associate's contract with the Defense Department's TRICARE Management Activity. The car allegedly was sitting in a San Antonio bank parking lot when the grab occurred.

As of Monday morning, 1,112 breaches have made the OCR list since the public shaming began in 2009 as required by a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act security rule modification in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Combined, these larger breaches involving 500 or more individuals have exposed the medical records of nearly 38.6 million people. The current U.S. population is estimated at 318.8 million. So, some 12.1% of the population has had their records breached.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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