The medical records of about 7.9 million people have been exposed in more than 30,750 healthcare-related security breaches since breach notification requirements took effect two years ago, according to a report by the HHS secretary and the Office for Civil Rights at HHS.
More than 30,000 health-records breaches since 2009: HHS
The vast majority of the breaches—more than 30,500 of them—were relatively small-scale mishaps that involved fewer than 500 records each and collectively accounted for the unauthorized disclosure of the records of roughly 62,000 individuals, according to the report to Congress (PDF).
During the same reporting period, however, the Office for Civil Rights received word of 252 large-scale breaches that involved more than 500 records each. These big breaches included some whoppers that involved the exposure of upward of 1 million records. In total, they accounted for the medical records of 7.8 million individuals being compromised, according to the report. The new breach notification requirements—pertaining to breaches by healthcare providers, health plans and their business associates—were contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and took effect in September of that year.
Under the stimulus law, which tightened and added new privacy and security measures to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, providers and other HIPAA-defined "covered entities" were required to report breaches to the Office for Civil Rights. The breaches of fewer than 500 records had to be reported to the office annually. The larger breaches, involving 500 or more records, had to be reported promptly. Details of these larger breaches are publicly posted on the OCR's "wall of shame" website.
The HHS secretary must, under the stimulus law, report to Congress about the breaches, as well as about compliance with privacy and security rules and enforcement actions taken by the agency, which has enforcement responsibilities for privacy and security under HIPAA. The law required HHS to make its first report to Congress within one year of enactment and annually thereafter. This was HHS' first report under that law, however.
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