CHIME Prompts FTC to Strictly Implement Health Breach Notification Rule

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has lately offered responses to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on the Trade Regulation Rule on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security. It has advised the FTC to make health apps and data brokers responsible for unlawful health data disclosures and unjust or misleading data practices.

On August 22, 2022, the ANPR was posted in the Federal Register seeking feedback from healthcare sector stakeholders, particularly about whether or not the Commission ought to implement new trade regulation rules or other regulatory options regarding the ways in which businesses gather, aggregate, secure, utilize, analyze, and keep consumer information, and also transmit, share, sell, or perhaps generate income from that information in ways, which are unjust or misleading.

CHIME has shown extensive support for the actions suggested by the FTC in view of the incidence of commercial surveillance and data practices that are doing harm to individuals, particularly regarding health information because of the degree to which mobile gadgets and health applications are now used to gather, process, and transfer health information. HIPAA typically does not cover mobile applications, therefore the information gathered, processed, and disclosed via those applications is not covered by the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, and the health information gathered is usually offered to data brokers.

CHIME lauded the initiatives of the FTC to secure consumer health data. and for the explanation of its authority that is covered by the Health Breach Notification Rule. The September 2021 Policy Statement On Breaches by Health Apps and Other Connected Devices states that personal health records vendors and associated entities must send notifications to FTC and consumers when there are breaches of unsecured identifiable health data and that the violations may be issued civil penalties.

An explanation was necessary because the Health Breach Notification Rule was given more than 10 years ago and was never enacted by the FTC, specifically considering the degree to which health information is being kept by entities that aren’t expected to be compliant with HIPAA. CHIME mentioned an IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science approximate that there are currently about 350,000 publicly accessible health applications and indicates the volume of the health information kept or transmitted by these applications can now go over the volume of data kept by HIPAA-covered entities.

CHIME is very supportive of new trade regulation guidelines to make use of the FTC’s present authority to safeguard consumers. It is urging the FTC to move into this space by using and enforcing the obvious, concise, and current authority as per the Health Breach Notification Rule to make non-HIPAA covered third-parties (namely, PHR and PHR-related entities’ vendors) accountable when they unlawfully disclose – deliberately or not – covered data. CHIME is convinced the FTC’s enforcement actions will help secure consumers’ health information and will inspire businesses with PHRs and PHR-associated entities to reinforce their information security practices.

The FTC has stated that the Health Breach Notification Rule is not applicable to HIPAA-covered entities and entities that behave exclusively as HIPAA-business associates, however, CHIME stated its members would appreciate the explanation concerning the possible upcoming proposed rule on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security, the FTC’s current authority as per the Health Breach Notification Rule, and information kept by HIPAA covered entities (CEs) which aren’t covered by HIPAA (i.e. de-identified data).”

A lot of Americans are not sure when health data is covered by HIPAA and when it is not, for example when health information is obtained via health apps. CHIME has required clear, transparent communication with consumers regarding how their data is being utilized, monetized and protected and it states this is going to be crucial in future rulemaking.

CHIME feels it’s time for the FTC to do something against PHR and PHR-associated entities’ vendors that have slack information protection, or are blatantly ignoring the legislation, and for notices and penalties to be given as per the current authority given to FTC by the Health Breach Notification Rule. CHIME has additionally required the FTC to do a lot more to avoid data breaches and the selling of consumer health information prior to it happening, by implementing real-world and strict privacy and security defenses on organizations to better secure consumer information.

CHIME likewise advises the FTC to be sure consumers know precisely how their information will be employed before making use of any company’s technology, and recommended questions that ought to be questioned regarding health apps which must be thought about in upcoming rulemaking.

Pharma Sales Rep Commits Healthcare Fraud and Criminal HIPAA Violations

A sales representative from a pharmaceutical company has admitted to a conspiracy committing healthcare fraud and wrongfully sharing and getting patients’ protected health information (PHI) in a complex healthcare fraud scheme that involves criminal HIPAA violations.

42-year-old Keith Ritson of Bayville, New Jersey is an ex-pharmaceutical sales agent who marketed compound prescription drugs and other medicines from 2014 to 2016. Compound prescription drugs are specialty medicines that a pharmacist mixes to fulfill the requirements of specific patients. Usually, these are prescribed when a patient cannot take standard medicines for a particular medical ailment, because of an allergy for example. Though not FDA-approved, a physician can legally prescribe compound prescription drugs after determining that standard medicines are not suitable for a specific patient.

Ritson found out that selected health insurance programs that have pharmacy benefit management services paid for compound prescription drugs issued by Central Rexall Drugs, Inc, a Louisiana pharmacy. The pharmacy benefits manager pays the prescription drug claims and then bills the state of New Jersey and other insurance companies for the paid amounts. Ritson together with his conspirators found a number of insurance providers would repay thousands of dollars monthly for several compound prescription drugs. So, Ritson would get a share of the money the pharmacy gets from the pharmacy benefits administrator for arranging any prescription medications.

Those who belong to insurance programs that paid for the compound medications would be hired to get the medicines, even though they weren’t medically required, and Ritson himself likewise obtained the medicines. Ritson got the patients from the clinical practice of Dr. Frank Alario. Dr. Alario admitted his part in this healthcare fraud scheme at the beginning of October.

Ritson wasn’t related to Alario’s medical practice, hence, was not authorized to view or get the PHI of the patients of Dr. Alario. However, Dr. Alario gave Ritson access to his clinic and patient files to see which patients got insurance policies that would pay for the medications. Afterward, Ritson would tag patients to let Dr. Alario know the patients that can be prescribed with compound medications. In certain cases, Ritson was there while Dr. Alario examined the patient, so the patients got the feeling that he was an employee or affiliated with the medical practice.

Ritson utilized patient data to complete prescription forms and Dr. Alario would subsequently approve the prescriptions. Ritson gets a commission on those compound prescription medications. On October 19, 2022, Ritson professed to one count of conspiring to wrongfully disclose and acquire the PHI of patients and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. His sentencing will be on Feb. 7, 2023. For the healthcare fraud count, he will face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 penalty. For the criminal HIPAA violation, he will face a maximum of one year in prison and a $50,000 penalty. For his role in this healthcare fraud scheme, Dr. Alario faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $50,000 penalty.

Other people involved in this healthcare fraud are three Central Rexall Drugs executives: 60-year-old Trent Brockmeier of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; 43-year-old Christopher Kyle Johnston of Mandeville, Louisiana; and 54-year-old Christopher Casseri of Baton Rouge, Louisiana They will face charges for their part in the scheme in a 24-count indictment which includes healthcare and wire fraud. 39-year-old Hayley Taff of Hammond, Louisiana, a pharmacy employee, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and will face his sentence on March 13, 2023.

Keystone Health and Lifespire Services Patients Impacted by Data Breaches

Keystone Health based in Chambersburg, PA lately reported that it encountered a cyberattack last August 19, 2022, which resulted in a temporary interruption to its computer networks. Steps had been promptly undertaken to reestablish the security of its programs and stop continuing unauthorized access. A third-party cybersecurity company investigated the breach to find out how the attackers acquired access to its networks and the extent of the data breach.

The forensic investigation showed that the attackers first acquired access to its networks on July 28, 2022. Their network access was blocked on August 19. The attackers were able to access files that included the following patients’ protected health information (PHI): names, clinical data, and Social Security numbers. A complete analysis of those files showed they comprised the data of 235,237 individuals.

Keystone Health notified law enforcement concerning the cyberattack and notified all impacted persons through the mail. Eligible patients received offers of free credit monitoring services. Keystone Health mentioned it is implementing extra security procedures to stop more occurrences of this type, and workers were given further security awareness training.

Lifespire Services Gives Latest News on February 2022 Cyberattack

Lifespire Services based in New York, a company offering services to individuals with developmental handicaps, has given the latest news about a security incident that was initially reported in April 2022. The reported incident was discovered on February 8, 2022, which disrupted its computer systems. A digital forensics firm helped Lifespire to confirm that unauthorized persons accessed its systems from January 14, 2022 to February 8, 2022, and may have viewed patient data at that time.

The extensive analysis that was done on all files in the affected areas of its system was completed on October 7, 2022. Lifespire affirmed that the PHI of 15,375 individuals was exposed. The exposed PHI included names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account details, credit card data, medical diagnosis/treatment details, Medicaid/Medicare numbers, and medical insurance data.

Lifespire stated it did not know of any cases of patient data misuse. Nevertheless, it offered the impacted persons free membership to credit monitoring and identity protection services. Because of the data breach, the company’s guidelines and procedures associated with network security were also updated.

Lifespire took several weeks or months to investigate the data breaches and analyze impacted files. Notifications about the attack had been issued to patients in April, even if the analysis of files is not yet completed. The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires the immediate issuance of notification and it is helpful for patients to know about the incident so they can take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves against improper use of their data. A lot of healthcare companies delay the announcement of the breach until the review of files is done. That could take a few months after and patient data may have already been stolen.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Detroit Health Department, and Zomo Health Report Data Breaches

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Reports Accidental Disclosure of PHI via Email

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has just reported that there was an accidental disclosure of protected health information (PHI) through its email. Based on the breach notice, in April 2021, the DHS Children’s Long-Term Support Council received a presentation through email that held protected health information. The presentation was afterward given by the Council to workers working for particular county government agencies. The presentation was published on the DHS website as part of the meeting minutes.

The mistake was discovered on August 8, 2022, and the file was deleted from the meeting minutes and changed to a file that did not allow access to PHI. Steps were additionally done to retrieve all distributed presentation copies. The presentation held the following types of information: first and last names, gender, date of birth, county location, Wisconsin Medicaid member ID number, and Social Security Number of affected Wisconsin Medicaid members.

DHS stated that the breach impacted 12,358 members of Wisconsin Medicaid. The affected individuals have already received notification and an offer of complimentary memberships to a credit monitoring service for 12 months.

Detroit Health Department Announces Unauthorized Exposure of PHI to Third Party

The Detroit Health Department (DHD) has lately announced the unauthorized exposure of clients’ PHI. As per the breach notification, on May 12, 2022, DHD found out that its office had an unauthorized disclosure of data to a third party. The information compromised included names, gender, race, dates of birth, addresses, contact details, marital status, household size, and participation status in some Detroit Health Department programs. DHD mentioned the breach didn’t impact all DHD clients, however, it is still uncertain precisely how many people were impacted. Those persons are now being informed via mail and were instructed on the steps that they may take to be safe against identity theft and fraud.

Zomo Health Reports the Exposure of Plan Member Information Over the Internet

Zomo Health based in Houston, TX, a company offering health management services, just reported that a spreadsheet that contains plan member details was exposed online. On August 5, 2022, Zomo Health found out that anyone can access a spreadsheet on its website. The company immediately blocked access to the spreadsheet. The investigation confirmed that the spreadsheet became accessible starting on January 15, 2022 because of human error. The spreadsheet lists the PHI of 1,359 persons which includes plan member names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, health plan names, email addresses, work addresses, telephone numbers, and data about involvement in health plan incentives.

Zomo Health stated it has remediated the process vulnerability that resulted in the exposure of the spreadsheet. A third-party security organization was hired to evaluate the safety of its technology systems on a continuing basis and improve its security settings. Impacted persons were informed on September 29, 2022.

PHI Compromised Due to Data Incidents at Anthem, CareOregon and WellMed Medical Management

Anthem has reported the compromise of the protected health information (PHI) of a number of plan members due to a data breach that happened at Choice Health, its vendor. Choice Health was allowed access to the information of plan members in order to carry out its contracted tasks. On August 5, 2022, Anthem found that an unauthorized person had acquired access to its database and extracted files that contain the PHI of plan members, which include names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, email addresses, Medicaid ID numbers, and Medicare ID numbers.

Because of a misconfiguration by a third-party service provider, anyone can access the database online. On May 7, 2022, someone did access and download information. Choice Health stated that it has already secured the database and took steps to enhance its data security procedures to avoid the same occurrences down the road. Multi-factor authentication for accessing the database files has been implemented. Impacted persons were provided free credit monitoring services.

The breach impacted a number of Choice Health customers, such as Humana. Anthem informed the Maine Attorney General concerning the breach and stated that 13,406 AnthemMainHealth members were impacted. The breach additionally impacted some members of Anthem Blue Cross, although the exact number of affected Anthem Blue Cross members is not yet known.

CareOregon Announces Mailing Error in August 2022

The medical insurance company, CareOregon based in Portland, OR, recently reported the impermissible disclosure of some of the PHI of 8,022 of its members because of a mailing error.

The incident, which happened on August 9, 2022, resulted in the sending of marketing letters to the wrong CareOregon member. The data exposed included the name and Medicaid ID number of some CareOregon members. CareOregon mentioned it has put in place extra guidelines and procedures and has given more training to its workers to make sure the same breaches are averted later on.

WellMed Medical Management Alerts Patients Regarding Doctor Soliciting Business

The healthcare delivery firm, WellMed Medical Management based in San Antonio, TX, has cautioned 10,506 patients regarding one of its former doctors that took their records before leaving work with the intent of contacting those patients to urge them to become patients at his new hospital.

The doctor obtained the records from February 6, 2022 to May 17, 2022. The files included demographic data like names, birth dates, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses; medical insurance details such as health plan identifier and payer name; and medical data including medical record numbers, names of providers, diagnoses, treatments, prescription drugs, and lab data. There was no theft of financial data, driver’s license numbers, or Social Security numbers.

WellMed stated it did something to stop further contact with the patients and informed the proper authorities concerning the HIPAA breach. WellMed has additionally stated that the documents obtained by the doctor have been retrieved. Because of the incident, WellMed strengthened its current guidelines and procedures and enforced more safety measures to stop identical incidents later on.

GAO: HHS Must Improve Monitoring of Medicare Telehealth and Assist Providers Communicate Privacy Concerns

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) lately performed an assessment of Medicare telehealth services given over the COVID-19 pandemic. Because a waiver was on hand, access to telehealth and virtual appointments was greatly expanded. The assessment included the use of telehealth services, the way CMS determined and checked risks considering the Medicare waivers, and the way the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) modified its implementation of HIPAA compliance with regard to telehealth throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.

With normal conditions, telehealth services are included in Medicare, however only in restricted instances, for example when patients residing in rural areas don’t get quick access to healthcare services. The growing need for telehealth because of the COVID-19 pandemic found the issuance of waivers by the HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) resulted in the expansion of Medicare telehealth services and permitted virtual appointments to be given in a wider selection of situations. OCR also issued a notice of enforcement discretion stating that enforcement actions wouldn’t be carried out against healthcare companies for the honest conduct of telehealth services, regardless if non-public-facing technology was employed that wouldn’t typically be HIPAA compliant.

From April to December 2019, 5 million Medicare telehealth consultations were done. At the same time in 2020, the number went up to 53 million. As per the GAO report, the CMS could not adequately review the quality of care offered to patients by means of telehealth appointments, and there’s concern that patients do not completely know the privacy risks involved, which possibly resulted in the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive health data.

OCR urged covered companies to let patients know about the possible privacy and security issues related to telehealth services; nevertheless, OCR didn’t inform companies about the particular language to utilize when describing those risks nor provide guidance to help companies clarify the risks. Giving such details to companies can help make sure that patients know the possible impact of the privacy and security risks connected with telehealth technology on their protected health information (PHI).

Under standard instances, a healthcare company and a communications platform vendor should sign a business associate agreement; nonetheless, that prerequisite wasn’t implemented throughout the public health crisis. That can possibly raise the risk of disclosing a patient’s PHI without them knowing it. Patients might not know that this change happened because of OCR’s telehealth policy, and the non-protection of their privacy.

GAO discussed in the report that there were complaints filed concerning possible violations of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule regarding telehealth appointments. Patients filed 5 separate complaints about using technology for telehealth consultations that weren’t HIPAA Security Rule compliant. There were 37 filed privacy complaints about concerns like the presence of third parties in visits and cases where companies disclosed PHI without getting patient permission.

GAO has suggested that OCR give more education and outreach to enable companies to clarify the privacy and security threats to patients linked to telehealth to ensure that those threats are completely understood. GAO highlighted the importance of giving patients quick-to-understand data to enable them to thoroughly examine the risks to their personal data and enhanced communication regarding the privacy policies and HIPAA compliance of telehealth vendors to help patients to better comprehend the privacy threats.

OCR agreed with the suggestions and stated it will be giving more guidance to healthcare companies concerning the offer of telehealth services, which includes the guide to make clear the privacy and security threats to patients in simple language.

GAO discovered there was incomplete information on audio-only and video telehealth appointments done from April to December 2020. This was confirmed to be because of the insufficiency of correct billing codes employed by insurance providers to monitor telehealth and virtual consultations and to determine when telehealth services were provided to beneficiaries in their residences.

GAO advised the CMS to create an extra billing modifier to permit the appropriate monitoring of audio-only office appointments, to require companies to utilize service codes that show when Medicare telehealth services are given to beneficiaries in their residences, and for the CMS Administrator to thoroughly evaluate the quality of Medicare services, which include audio-only services, sent utilizing telehealth throughout the public health crisis.

3 Dental Practices To Pay Fine to Resolve the HIPAA Right of Access Violations

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has decided to resolve three investigations of dental practices for likely HIPAA Right of Access violations. The three investigations were begun after patients complained concerning the inability of their dental practices to offer them on-time access to their medical records, as one of the investigations included an accusation of charging an overpriced fee for a copy of health records.

A patient of Great Expressions Dental Center of Georgia, P.C. (GEDC-GA) submitted a complaint at the OCR last November 2020 after the Georgia-based dental and orthodontics company informed her that a copy of her health records will only be given after she pays a $170 copying charge. The HIPAA Right of Access grants healthcare institutions to bill patients for giving a copy of their medical records, however, the costs ought to be fair and cost-based.

OCR’s investigation results show that the patient didn’t receive a copy of her files until February 2021, which is 15 months following the preliminary request. OCR likewise confirmed that GEDC-GA’s practice of reviewing copying costs led to the patient being billed a cost that wasn’t fair and cost-based. GEDC-GA decided to resolve the case and spent on an $80,000 penalty and put in place a good corrective action plan to deal with the violation of the HIPAA Right of Access.

An investigation of Family Dental Care, P.C. based in Chicago-IL started after a patient filed a complaint on August 8, 2020 saying that the dental practce failed to give her a complete copy of her healthcare records. The former patient sent a request for all her information in May 2020, however, only parts of those files were made available. The patient didn’t get her complete records until October 2020, above 5 months after the first request was filed. OCR confirmed there was an inability to give prompt access to the required medical records, which breached the HIPAA Right of Access. Family Dental Care opted to negotiate the case by paying a $30,000 dine and enforced a corrective action plan to handle the non-compliance.

OCR got a complaint on October 26, 2020 from patient of B. Steven L. Hardy, D.D.S., LTD (dba Paradise Family Dental located in Las Vegas, NV). The patient claimed to have asked for a copy of her and her small kid’s healthcare information on a number of instances, nevertheless, the records were not given. The requests were submitted from April 11, 2020, to December 4, 2020, yet the files were not given until December 31, 2020, 8 months right after the preliminary submission of the request. OCR established the late provision of the records breached the HIPAA Right of Access. Paradise decided to resolve the case and spent a $25,000 financial fine and carried out a corrective action plan to deal with the violation.

OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer mentioned that the enforcement action regarding the 3 right of access violations emphasizes why dental practices of any size need to adhere to the HIPAA Rules. Patients get an essential right protected by HIPAA to obtain their asked-for health records, generally, in a period of 30 days. When companies comply, there will be fewer patients to submit a complaint with OCR regarding their medical records requisition.

Melanie Fontes-Rainer is the new HHS’ Office for Civil Rights Director

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has a new Director, Melanie Fontes Rainer, who was sworn in by the Department of Health and Human Services Director Xavier Becerra. Fontes Rainer is going to head the department’s enforcement of HIPAA compliance and federal civil rights. He will lead the department’s policy and tactical projects.

Fontes Rainer formerly worked as Acting Director, in place of Lisa J. Pino who quit the position in July 2022 after 11 months. Before becoming a part of OCR, Fontes Rainer worked as Secretary Becerra’s Counselor and offered strategy guidance on concerns related to patient privacy, civil rights, reproductive health, competition in healthcare, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), equity, and the private insurance industry. In that position, she headed the enforcement of the No Surprises Act, which made medical billing transparent helping consumers to save money. Fontes Rainer led the White House Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, and recently gave the Secretary and the Administration advice on dealing with the Supreme Court judgment on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Fontes Rainer was likewise designated by the Secretary on the White House Competition Council, spearheading cross-cutting Department work and a whole-of-Government strategy on competition, price transparency, and costs to help U.S. consumers.

Before Fontes Rainer became a member of the Biden-Harris Administration, she had the following roles:

  • She worked as Special Assistant to the California Department of Justice Attorney General and Chief Health Care Advisor. As Special Assistant
  • She headed a national team to conserve the Affordable Care Act and secure healthcare insurance for over 133 million people in America.
  • She helped create the Health Care Rights and Access, which is a new office dedicated to proactively developing laws related to health care civil rights, competition, consumer protection, and privacy.
  • She worked in the U.S. Senate as a Senior Aide and Women’s Policy Director to Chair Patty Murray on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Budget Committees
  • She assisted in passing a number of transformative health care legislation, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the 21st Century Cures Act, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
  • She headed the Senate in the work involving the Affordable Care Act, gender equity, and reproductive rights.

Melanie has dedicated her whole professional career to serving the public and worked tirelessly to ensure that medical care is accessible to everyone and reasonably priced, regardless of who you are or where you live. As a longtime senior aide, Melanie will protect and impose the medical care and civil rights of every citizen across the country. Melanie’s dedication and expertise are essential to carrying out the priorities in health and human services of the Biden-Harris Administration.

Urology Center of Colorado to Resolve Class Action Data Breach Lawsuit

The Urology Center of Colorado has decided to resolve a class action lawsuit associated with a 137,820-record data breach that happened in September 2021. Last November 5, 2021, the company dispatched notification letters to its patients informing them about the potential compromise of some of their protected health information (PHI) two months earlier, from September 7 to September 8, 2022.

Unauthorized people gained access to its system and likely extracted files that contain patient data including names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, health record numbers, diagnoses, doctor names, insurance provider companies, names of guarantors, and treatment cost data. Impacted persons were provided free 12-months credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

Legal action was submitted on behalf of plaintiffs Diona Lopez and Kristen Snyder as well as other persons impacted in the same way
by the security breach. The plaintiffs claimed the Urology Center of Colorado was at fault for not implementing required safety measures to protect the privacy of patient data, which include the inability to encrypt patient information, use patches quickly to mitigate identified vulnerabilities, evaluate and update account privileges of users, update firewalls, give proper training to people on the processes for dealing with inbound email messages, and be sure proper security procedures were implemented. The legal action additionally claimed a violation of Colorado’s data security regulations, a breach of implied contract, and a breach of fiduciary duty. Due to the negligence, the plaintiffs assert they are dealing with a huge, increased risk of fraud and identity theft.

The Urology Center of Colorado did any admit to any wrongdoing and does not accept liability for the information breach however decided to negotiate legal action to avoid the uncertainty of trial and continuing legal expenses. Based on the conditions of the settlement, the Urology Center of Colorado has consented to give payment for recorded out-of-pocket expenses and lost time. Those who file a claim are going to be entitled to get as much as $500 for recorded losses, which include as much as 5 hours of lost time. Claims of around $2,500 could be filed for extraordinary losses, and those who were California locals during the data breach are eligible to get $50 more in payments.

People that registered for the identity theft protection and credit monitoring services made available by the Urology Center of Colorado can claim two more years of membership. People who didn’t initially register for the services will get a two-year membership to those services.

Class action data breach settlements usually consist of a commitment to put into action more security procedures, though this negotiation has no such promises. The Urology Center of Colorado mentioned in its November breach notification letters that extra measures were being thought of to enhance security.

People who would like to refuse to or leave themselves out of the settlement have up to October 10, 2022, to take action. Claims should be filed by November 7, 2022. The schedule for the final fairness hearing is on October 26, 2022.

House Democrats Seek Responses from Meta about its Data Sharing Guidelines

On August 31, 2022, Democrats from the Committee on Energy and Commerce composed a letter for the Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to convey their worries concerning the sharing of personal communications to police authorities and want clarification about its data-sharing rules. The conversations between a mom and her daughter took place on Meta platforms regarding an unlawful abortion.

The police performed a criminal investigation involving Nebraska locals, 41-year-old Jessica Burgess, and her 18-year-old daughter, Celeste Burgess, because of a supposed unlawful abortion. The teen is purported to have had an illegal abortion after the 20th week, and buried the unborn child. After Roe v Wade was revoked, Nebraska made abortion unlawful over 20 weeks following fertilization.

The police started an investigation right after knowing that a 17-year-old suddenly gave birth to a baby born dead. The local law enforcement released a warrant to Meta to access the discussions between mom and daughter recorded on its platforms, based on a Deseret News report. Celeste Burgess faced charges of three felony counts: executing an unlawful abortion, carrying out the abortion with no licensed physician, and then hiding a dead body, together with two misdemeanors: hiding the death of a person and bogus reporting. Jessica Burgess faced charges on two counts: doing an unlawful abortion beyond 20 weeks and carrying out the abortion as a doctor with no license. Another 22-year-old man likewise faced a misdemeanor charge: trying to hide another person’s death.

Meta released an announcement about the reported case in the media hoping to correct the false stories, stating most of the reporting concerning Meta’s part in a criminal case involving a mom and daughter living in Nebraska is simply incorrect. Meta affirmed that the warrant did not mention any abortion. The legal warrants were issued by local authorities last June 7, prior to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Corporation. The warrants didn’t speak about abortion at all, as per Meta. Court files indicate that police were investigating the supposed unlawful burning and burial of an aborted baby. The warrants had non-disclosure requirements, which kept them from spreading data about them. The orders are already lifted.

The Committee Democrats are looking for responses from Meta about its privacy guidelines on the safety of the sensitive data of its platform users and how the firm makes sure personal data is safe while following legal accountabilities, particularly taking into consideration the company will probably get more requests from the authorities asking access to users’ sensitive information associated with unlawful abortions.

Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Diana DeGette, Chair Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, Jan Schakowsky, and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health, Anna G. Eshoo, have asked for a briefing concerning how Meta treats personal information and its guidelines and procedures concerning the sharing of that information with authorities and other third parties.

California Legislature Approves Bill Banning the Disclosure of Data About Abortions

The Californian legislature has approved a bill (AB-1242) that forbids organizations in the state from honoring warrants by other states that like to access data about persons looking to or offering abortions.

The judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court to revoke Roe v. Wade eliminated the federal right to get an abortion. A number of states had trigger laws set up that made abortion unlawful in case Roe v. Wade is revoked. Twelve states have now made abortion unlawful for state locals. Some other states are contemplating employing the same limitations.

There are concerns that lawsuits can be filed against persons in those states in case they seek abortions in other states, and that state attorneys general and police authorities may try to acquire data concerning people getting abortions in states allowing abortion legally. Under the current legislation in California, information about persons must be given in case a search warrant is given for particular reasons. The change in the law forbids issuing such a warrant associated with investigations of people getting abortions or people offering abortions. The new law likewise forbids local authorities from helping abortion investigations, which include giving cellphone location details of women who take a trip to California to get abortions.

Particularly, the law forbids issuing an ex parte order permitting the interception of any electronic communication or wire or an order, or extension of an order, permitting or authorizing the setup and using a pen register or trap and trace device for the goal of investigating or retrieving proof of a prohibited violation.

Prohibited violations are described as a violation of the legislation that results in liability for, or arising out of, either banning, facilitating, or getting an abortion or planning or trying to offer, facilitate, or get an abortion that is legal with California legislation.

In case a state wants to release a search warrant to find the identity of people or the details of their communications, it is necessary for those states to testify that the data being searched is not associated with the abortion investigations. When any Californian firm decides to abide by any such requirement, the state attorney general will be allowed to file a suit against the firm for a violation of state legislation.

The bill only needs the approval of California Governor Gavin Newsom. The due date is September 30, 2022 for Newsom to sign the new legislation.

Study Investigates How Medical Apps are Disclosing Health Information to Facebook and Others

Sensitive information is being sent to data brokers and marketers with the goal of serving targeted ads, and not only by health applications and fitness trackers. HIPAA-covered entities are likewise sending health information with no patient authorization, which subjects them to regulatory penalties and legal cases.

A lot of end-user health applications gather sensitive health data, such as personal fitness and workout applications, and pregnancy and fertility tracker applications. The applications are given information or directly acquire that data via connected wearable devices, and that data may be sent to third parties or bought, in accordance with the agreements for use of the applications. If users don’t like to disclose their information, they can just stop using the apps.

Nevertheless, there is a rising concern about healthcare companies covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) disclosing identifiable health information. Numerous hospitals have lately been found to have utilized the Meta Pixel JavaScript code on their web pages for monitoring visitor activity and analyzing the performance of their Facebook advertising campaigns. In certain instances, the code is put on pages inside patient websites, and health data has been transmitted to Meta with no authorization and utilized by Facebook marketers to send targeted personalized ads. A minimum of two lawsuits were filed against healthcare companies due to the privacy breaches, and Novant Health has lately sent notifications to over 1.3 million individuals whose privacy was breached.

Study Investigates How Medical Applications Share Healthcare Information with Social Media Platforms

A new study has looked into how medical applications have been disclosing sensitive health information. The researchers chose medical applications that were popular with patients that are active on social media sites, such as Facebook, to get data associated with their medical ailment. The study looked at five digital medicine firms and assessed 32 cross-site-tracking middleware types that utilized cookies to monitor people all over the Internet and disclosed their browsing activities with Facebook for marketing and lead generation purposes. Particularly, the researchers centered on companies that were providing services to patient advocates belonging to the cancer care community who were frequent users of social media websites.

Patients usually utilize social media sites to get assistance from their friends. Facebook is the most commonly used. Facebook is flooded with advertisements associated with medical ailments. Based on the researchers, in 2019, health and pharmaceutical firms spent over 1 billion on ads using Facebook mobile advertising only. The health data disclosed by patients to social communities exposes them to these advertisements and enables health and pharmaceutical firms to select particular patient populations. The targeted patients in the cancer community were seen to be vulnerable to online fraud, health misinformation, and privacy breaches by means of using cross-site tracking middleware. The researchers centered their research on the ad model of Facebook, though the results may be applicable to other social media platforms.

How Patients Tracking and Sending Targeted Ads Work

In a normal situation, a cancer patient registers for a digital medicine or genetic testing application and accepts the terms and conditions. The patient has or registers for a Facebook account in a different process. Vendors add third-party tracking codes on web pages that transmit off-Facebook activity with no permission from a user.

The off-Facebook activity sent by the vendor is employed to update Facebook’s advertisement interests algorithms. Subsequently, Facebook shows health-associated advertisements according to the users’ health interests. Vendors can tailor advertisements to users with particular health interests, and could likewise try to enhance the data via forms and quizzes, as the lead information sent from Facebook to the CRM system of the vendor.

Privacy Guidelines and Data Sharing Practices Vary

Although digital medicine or genetic testing applications have privacy guidelines that describe how information is gathered and used, in certain instances, the privacy guidelines do not suit actual information-sharing practices. All five applications had privacy guidelines, however, three stated that health information wouldn’t be transmitted to advertisers when data was being shared.

All five applications are likely subject to the Health Breach Notification Rule of the Federal Trade Commission, and two of the application vendors were CLIA-accredited labs that provide clinical genetic and diagnostic testing, and are thus covered by HIPAA. In certain instances, users are monitored and information was being disclosed even if there was no consent given, and in a few instances, users were advised that their health data wouldn’t be given to Facebook or other parties.

A representative of Meta stated that health data shouldn’t be provided on the platform and that it screens and removes health information to keep it from being disclosed to advertisers; nevertheless, the filter doesn’t identify all health information. The researchers mentioned Facebook’s announcement in November 2021 that it is going to remove all specific ad-targeting endpoints for sensitive health data.

The researchers noted that the practice of monitoring users and disclosing their information with Facebook (and other social media sites) may violate government and industry legislation, particularly the FTC’s Health Data Breach Notification Rule and likely HIPAA. Additionally, they state that from the introduction of the Health Data Breach Notification Rule, no enforcement has been issued.

The researchers showed that it’s possible to obtain personal information and personal health information without the help of highly advanced cyberattack strategies but only the usual third-party advertising applications. Although the research did not confirm any deliberate deceit of individuals, it was likewise unclear to what extent these companies knew that user health information is being tracked and provided to Facebook in order to serve targeted ads.

The marketing applications show a dark pattern of monitoring vulnerable patient visits across platforms while they surf on the internet, in a few ways not clear to the firms and patient populations who are using Facebook. Although the digital medicine ecosystem depends on social networks to get and build up their businesses via advertising-associated marketing programs, these practices at times contradict their very own stated privacy guidelines and promises to their customers.

The study entitled Health advertising on Facebook: Privacy and Policy Considerations was publicized in the journal Patterns last August 15, 2022.

FTC Sues Kochava Due to Illegal Gathering and Sale of Sensitive Geolocation Information

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing the data broker Kochava in Idaho for illegally gathering and peddling the sensitive information of mobile end users, violating the FTC Act. Based on the lawsuit, Kochava might be gathering and peddling the exact geolocation information of consumers together with data that enables the identification of individuals. The location information is supported by a Mobile Advertising ID (MAID), a special identifier that is given to a consumer’s mobile unit for marketing reasons. Although people can alter the MAID, a user must proactively reset the MAID on their mobile unit.

Kochava’s clients can buy a license to get feeds of premium information that consist of timestamped latitude and longitude coordinates that show the location of mobile gadgets together with unique identifiers. The information is utilized for different purposes, such as for promotions and monitoring retail shop visitors. Although Kochava clients should pay for a subscription to get data access, a data sample is given totally free. To get access to the data, it is required to register for a free AWS account and get approval from Kochava to access the sample. There are no restrictions on the use of the sample information. The sample covers a 7-day time frame, with the FTC saying in the suit that one day’s value of information in the free sample contained 327,480,000 rows, 11 columns, and the information gathered from over 61,803,400 exclusive mobile gadgets.

It is possible to know which consumers went to the reproductive health clinic using their mobile devices by plotting the longitude and latitude
coordinates found in the Kochava data stream utilizing a publicly accessible map applicationS. Additionally, since every set of coordinates has a time-stamp, a mobile gadget that has been to the location can be identified. The same techniques may be employed to track consumers’ appointments to other sensitive areas. The FTC states a number of data brokers promote services that complement MAIDS with consumers’ names and physical addresses, even though it is possible to recognize people without utilizing those services according to the dwell time and regularity of visits to some areas and from public information.

The FTC states Kochava has not enforced any technical settings to stop its clients from identifying users or monitoring visits to sensitive places, like utilizing blacklists to take away location information when people go to sensitive areas like abortion hospitals, mental healthcare companies, and addiction treatment facilities. The FTC’s evaluation of the data sample confirmed that one gadget had been to a women’s reproductive health facility and exposed that person’s family home address.

The FTC claims that the selling of sensitive geolocation information represents an unnecessary invasion of the private life of consumers and would probably cause considerable injury. The lawsuit claims Kochava’s business tactics constitute unjust acts or methods that violate Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), and that users are suffering, have endured, and will still experience substantial injury because of Kochava’s violation of the FTC Act. The lawsuit wants the sale of sensitive geolocation data to end and the removal of all sensitive location information collected by Kochava.

At the beginning of this month, Kochava filed a lawsuit in order to reverse the FTC lawsuit, which mentioned that it had enforced a new function on August 10, 2022, called Privacy Block. This function takes away sensitive location information from its marketplace, which includes location information showing visits to healthcare companies.

$300,640 HIPAA Penalty Issued Due to Improper PHI Disposal

New England Dermatology P.C. based in Massachusetts, dba New England Dermatology and Laser Center (NDELC), decided to resolve an alleged HIPAA Privacy Rule violation case by paying a $300,640 penalty to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

On May 11, 2021, NDELC informed OCR regarding a privacy violation that affected the protected health information (PHI) of 58,106 individuals. On March 31, 2021, NDELC discarded empty containers of specimens in a usual dumpster in a parking lot at the NDELC. The containers got labels written with the patients’ names, birth dates, sample date of collection, and the names of the companies that got the samples. OCR looked into the incident and NDELC showed it was a common practice to discard empty specimen containers with waste materials. The workers are doing this practice from February 4, 2011 up to March 31, 2021.

The administrative safety measures of the HIPAA Privacy Rule – 45 C.F.R. § 164.530(c) – require the implementation of proper administrative, physical and technical safeguards to keep the privacy of PHI safe. Covered entities should fairly protect PHI to control accidental uses or disclosures, and should fairly protect PHI from any deliberate or accidental use or disclosure. If the protected health information does not require legal retention, it should be discarded safely, meaning protected health information should be in essence made unreadable, indecipherable, and or can’t be reconstructed before disposal.

Besides violating 45 C.F.R. § 164.530(c), OCR confirmed there was an impermissible PHI disclosure to unauthorized persons, violating 45 C.F.R. § 164.502(a). NDELC decided to resolve the case without admitting any liability. Besides having to pay a financial penalty, NDELC has consented to employ a corrective action program, including two years of supervision.

Improper removal of protected health information results in an unwanted risk to patient data security, stated Acting OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. Entities covered by HIPAA need to take all the steps to make sure of safety when discarding patient data. Patient information must be kept from public access. Rainer succeeded Lisa J. Pino in July 2022. Pino acted as OCR Director for up to 10 months.

OCR has been busy because of HIPAA enforcement. There were 17 HIPAA cases in 2022 that were resolved with financial penalties. There were 19 cases with financial penalties issued in 2020.

Data Exposed at Lamoille Health Partners and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has lately found out that unauthorized individuals have acquired access to one of its information systems. The breached system held medical information on all people who were screened for COVID-19 between June 2020 and January 2022, which include staff members, visitors, and other persons, although not inmates. The data associated with COVID-19 screenings included name, personal address, telephone number, email, date of birth, and COVID-19 testing results.

Records on the system also held the mental health data of inmates in the Mental Health Services Delivery System from 2008, along with the information of persons on parole who were involved in substance use disorder treatment programs. Some of the compromised data included trust account details, driver’s license numbers, and Social Security Numbers.

The information of inmates comprised name, CDCR number, mental health history, mental health treatment, and mental health diagnosis. The data in the Trust, Restitution, Accounting, and Canteen System (TRACS) was likewise likely involved, including transaction data made by CDCR to and from trust accounts dating back to 2008, together with some trust account numbers.

CDCR mentioned the data breach was uncovered during routine maintenance. The investigation did not confirm when the first system compromise happened; nevertheless, suspicious activity was noticed in a file transfer system from December 2021. CDCR cannot affirm whether any specific information was accessed or exfiltrated and stated no corroborating evidence was observed that suggests compromise or misuse of any exposed information.

CDCR mentioned procedures and practices were modified to control the chances of other breaches and the affected computer system is not being used anymore. A substitute computer system was employed that has more security settings.

The incident is not yet posted on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights Breach Portal therefore it is still uncertain how many people were impacted.

Lamoille Health Partners Suffers Ransomware Attack

Lamoille Health Partners based in Vermont has just announced that it encountered a ransomware attack on June 13, 2022. It took prompt action to avoid further unauthorized access to its systems. A third-party digital forensics firm helped with the investigation. Lamoille Health Partners stated it could securely restore the encrypted files from backup files thus no ransom was given; nonetheless, the forensic investigation confirmed that the attackers got access to its systems from June 12, 2022 to June 13, 2022. During that time it is possible that files that contain patients’ protected health information (PHI) may have been accessed or obtained.

On June 24, 2022, Lamoille Health Partners affirmed that the records that might have been viewed had patient data like names, dates of birth, addresses, health insurance data, medical treatment details, and Social Security numbers. 59,381 persons were informed about the exposure of their PHI. Complimentary identity protection and credit monitoring services were provided to people whose Social Security numbers were exposed.

Novant Health Patients PHI Exposed via Meta Pixel Code on Patient Portal

Novant Health has just informed patients regarding a breach of their protected health information (PHI) because of the wrong settings of Meta Pixel code on its patient website.

Code Snippet Transmitting Sensitive Patient Information to Meta

At the beginning of this year, The Markup conducted an investigation about the usage of Meta Pixel code on websites of healthcare providers. The investigation revealed that 33 of the 100 top-rated hospitals in America had employed Meta Pixel code on their web pages. Moreover, 7 hospitals used the code on their patients’ password-protected webpages. The 7 hospitals were FastMed, Community Health Network, Edward-Elmhurst Health, Novant Health, Renown Health, WakeMed, and Piedmont.

Meta Pixel is a piece of JavaScript code that is employed to monitor site visitors, and the information collected is transmitted to Meta (Facebook), which can be employed to deliver targeted adverts. Meta says that companies that utilize Meta Pixel aren’t meant to transmit sensitive information. In case Meta finds out it has been provided sensitive information in error, it is blocked out to avoid using the information to deliver targeted adverts. That procedure doesn’t seem to be working well. Although that data is blocked out, it is still being transmitted to Meta.

After the report was published, several lawsuits had been filed on behalf of those whose personal data and PHI were shared with Meta through the Meta Pixel code on healthcare company portals. The lawsuits assert a breach of federal and state privacy regulations since the data was transmitted with no express permission from the patients.

A patient of MedStar Health System based in Baltimore filed a class action lawsuit, which alleges that Meta Pixel was employed on the sites of about 664 healthcare companies, permitting patient information to be transmitted to Meta violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Another lawsuit versus Meta and Dignity Health and the University of California San Francisco was filed with the main plaintiff alleging to have been gotten targeted advertisements after the sharing of sensitive data with regards to a health matter on the patient website. Of late, an identical lawsuit was filed versus Meta and Northwestern Memorial Hospital based in Chicago, IL.

Novant Health Informs Patients Concerning Meta Pixel Data Breach

Novant Health lately informed a still unknown number of patients about the disclosure of some of their protected health information (PHI) to Meta. It is the first healthcare company to send breach notification letters to patients related to using the Meta Pixel code.

Novant Health said in its breach notification letters that an improper configuration of [Meta] Pixel resulted in the transfer of PHI to Meta. It also mentioned it wished to be transparent about the data breach and why it used the pixel code on its site.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Novant Health had a promotional campaign to connect more patients to its Novant Health MyChart patient website. The goals are to improve access to care via virtual consultations and to offer more access in response to the limits of in-person care. The campaign used Facebook ads and added a Meta tracking pixel on its website to determine the success of those advertisements. However, the pixel was set up erroneously and might have permitted a number of private data to be sent to Meta from its website and MyChart portal.

When informed concerning the likely privacy breach, Novant Health promptly deactivated and took away the pixel from the patient website and started an investigation to find out the magnitude to which data was being sent to Meta. On June 17, 2022, Novant Health confirmed that PHI might have been unintentionally transmitted according to the type of user actions on the patient website. The data sent would have differed from individual to individual, and might have contained a person’s email address, telephone number, IP address, button/menu selections, contact details inputted into Advanced Care Planning or Emergency Contacts, type and date of appointment, doctor chosen, and/or content entered into text boxes.

Novant Health explained it did not find any proof that Meta or any third party has used the data transferred. In case a person entered financial details or a Social Security number, that data might also have been transmitted to Meta. Novant Health stated the notification letters sent to individuals would mention when such data was disclosed, and in that case, free credit monitoring services will be given to impacted persons.

Cyberattacks Suffered by First Choice Community Healthcare and Arlington Skin

First Choice Community Healthcare located in Albuquerque, NM, has begun informing a number of patients about the unauthorized access of a person to its network who possibly stole patient information. First Choice explained in a substitute breach notification that it discovered strange activity in its technological system on March 27, 2022. A third-party cybersecurity company was employed to perform a forensic investigation and find out the nature and extent of the breach. Although it wasn’t possible to validate whether the unauthorized person accessed or exfiltrated any files, the probability cannot be excluded.

An extensive analysis of the impacted files was finished on June 3, 2022, which affirmed the potential compromise of the following data: names, First Choice patient ID number, date of birth, Social Security numbers, diagnosis, clinical treatment data, prescription medications, dates of service, medical insurance details, patient account number, medical record number, and provider details. Impacted persons got informed concerning the breach through mail on August 1, 2022, and received free identity theft protection services via IDX.

The breach is not yet posted on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights portal, therefore it is presently uncertain how many persons were impacted.

17,468 Arlington Skin Patients Informed About Electronic Medical Records Breach

Dr. Michelle A. Rivera, MD, also known as Arlington Skin in Virginia began informing 17,468 patients about the potential access to their protected health information (PHI) by unauthorized persons during a security breach involving Virtual Private Network Solutions (VPN Solutions), a business associate.

VPN Solutions handles the electronic medical records of Arlington Skin patients by using the Allscripts practice management services and electronic medical records system. The cyberattack was identified by VPN Solutions on or approximately October 31, 2021. According to the forensic investigation, the attack possibly affected the following data: names, addresses, birth dates, diagnostic and treatment data, medical insurance data, and Social Security numbers.

Arlington Skin began sending notification letters to impacted persons on July 8, 2022. There was no proof of data theft discovered however, as a safety measure, fraud support and remediation services were offered to impacted people via CyberScout.

Ransomware Attack at Mailing Vendor Affected 326,278 Aetna ACE Members

The health insurance provider Aetna ACE recently announced being impacted by a ransomware attack on a mailing vendor resulting in the breach of protected health information (PHI) of 326,278 plan members. Aetna stated the breach only affected persons insured with Aetna ACE, and it did not affect any PHI of persons served by CVS Health or Aetna.

The ransomware attack impacted OneTouchPoint, which offers printing and mailing solutions to U.S. organizations, which include billing providers employed by healthcare companies. OneTouchPoint gets access to contact data and some other data types to deliver its contracted solutions. On April 28, 2022, OneTouchPoint found out that files were encrypted on its systems. The unauthorized access happened a day before April 27, 2022.

Third-party cybersecurity experts were hired to look into the security breach. The investigation concluded on June 1, 2022, however, it was not determined which particular files had been exfiltrated from its network. Impacted customers had been informed on June 3, 2022, and OneTouchPoint is determining which of the customers’ data was possibly accessed or extracted from its systems. The compromised and possibly stolen information may have included names, addresses, birth dates, member IDs, and some medical data.

OneTouchPoint stated it offered to mail notification letters to all impacted persons; nonetheless, a few of its clients opted to self-report the data breach and mail the notification letters themselves. OneTouchPoint has submitted the breach report to the Maine Attorney general on behalf of 30 health plans stating that 1,073,316 persons were impacted. Aetna ACE opted to self-report the data breach. Other health plans impacted by the ransomware attack on OneTouchPoint include Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, Health First, Geisinger, UPMC Health Plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Blue Shield of California Promise Health, and other affiliated health plans of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

This is not the first time Aetna ACE experienced data breaches at business associates. A business associate phishing attack in 2020 exposed the PHI of 484,157 plan members of Aetna ACE. Because of the response made by a staff member of vendor EyeMed to a phishing email, unauthorized persons got access to email accounts that held the PHI of 2.1 million persons. EyeMed had to pay a $600,000 fine to the New York State Attorney General for security violations that resulted in the data breach.

Aetna furthermore encountered another mailing-associated data breach in 2017, which impacted 12,000 persons. In that instance, a mailing was delivered to members to let them know about the various options available for getting prescriptions for their HIV drugs. But window envelopes were used and so the HIV drug details could be read by anyone who would know that the recipient members were getting treatment for HIV or were given HIV medicines to avoid infection. State attorneys general investigated Aetna in this case. Aetna had to pay over $2,725,000 million in penalties to settle the case. A $1,000,000 fine was additionally enforced by the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, and Aetna resolved a $17 million class action lawsuit.

IBM Report Reveals Record High $10.1 Million Average Cost of a Healthcare Data Breach

IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report reveals that for the first time ever, the average cost of a healthcare data breach is in two digits – from more or less $1 million to $10.1 million. That is 9.4% higher than in 2021 and 41.6% higher than in 2020. Across all industries, the average data breach cost increased 2.6% year over year at $4.35 million. That is the largest average cost in 17 years and is 12.7% greater than in 2020.

For the report, IBM Security investigated 550 companies in 17 nations and regions and 17 various industries that experienced data breaches from March 2021 to March 2022. More than 3,600 interviews had been conducted with people in those companies. 83% of companies that participated in the study have encountered one or more data breaches, and 60% of companies stated the data breach resulted in a higher price of their goods and services.

Overview of Data Breach Costs in 2022

  • $4.35 million Global average cost of a data breach
  • $164 million Global average cost per breached record
  • $9.44 million Average cost of a data breach in the U.S.
  • $10.1 million Average cost of a healthcare data breach
  • $49 million Average cost of a 1 million record data breach
  • $387 million Average cost of 50-60 million record data breach
  • $4.54 million Average cost of a ransomware attack
  • $4.91 million Average cost of phishing as the preliminary attack vector

In 2022, this is the first time that the major part of the data breach costs was discovery and escalation, amounting to $1.44 million; it was $1.24 million in 2021. Following was lost business with an average cost of $1.42 million in 2022, it was $1.59 million in 2021. The post-breach response is slightly higher at $1.18 million from $1.14 million 2021. There was a slight increase in costs of notification at $0.31 million from $0.27 million in 2021.

Usually, 52% of the breach costs are sustained during the first year, 29% during the second year, and 19% right after two years. In very regulated industry sectors like healthcare, a lot bigger percentage of the costs are suffered with 45% of costs during the first year, 31% during the second year, and 24% after the second year, which was credited to regulatory and legal expenditures.

The report looked into the various preliminary attack vectors and discovered that the most prevalent entry path was the usage of stolen credentials (19% of all data breaches) with an average data breach costing of $4.5 million. 16% of all data breaches were phishing attacks, the most expensive attack vector with an average cost of $4.91 million. 6% of all data breaches were business email compromise attacks with an average cost of $4.89 million. 15% of data breaches were due to cloud misconfigurations with an average cost of $4.14 million. Lastly, 13% of data breaches were due to vulnerabilities in third-party software with an average cost of $.55 million per breach.

In 2022, the average time to discover a data breach was 207 days. It was 212 days in 2021. The average time to control a data breach was 277 days; it was 287 days in 2021. With a shorter time to discover and control a breach, also called the data breach lifecycle, there is a reduced breach cost. Data breaches that have a lifecycle below 200 days cost 26.5% ($1.12 million) lower on average compared to data breaches that have a lifecycle above 200 days.

A crucial step necessary to boost security is to undertake zero trust techniques, however, just 59% of companies had implemented zero trust, and about 80% of critical infrastructure companies had not yet implemented zero-trust strategies. The average breach cost for critical infrastructure companies that have not implemented zero trust was $5.4 million. It was $1.17 million higher compared to those that had applied zero trust strategies.


PHI Exposed in Data Breaches at Clinivate, Kaiser Permanente, and McLaren Port Huron Hospital

Clinivate Reports Compromise of 77,652 Records

Concerning the data breach report submitted to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights on June 2, 2022, there is an update by Clinivate based in Pasadena, CA, an EHR solutions provider for behavioral health centers and schools.

Based on a breach notification sent to the California Attorney General, odd activity was discovered in its digital system on March 23, 2022. A forensic investigation affirmed the unauthorized access by a third party to its network. On May 25, 2022, it was confirmed that the files accessed by that third party between March 12, 2022 and March 21, 2022 contained the protected health information (PHI) of individuals.

The files held the protected health information of 77,652 people, such as names, health plan beneficiary numbers, medical record numbers, treatment data, diagnosis details, other medical data, and information regarding payments for health services.

Clinivate has informed affected persons and mentioned it has executed additional safety measures to avoid further data breaches.

McLaren Port Huron Hospital Announces Compromise of PHI of 49,000 Individuals in MCG Health Cyberattack

McLaren Port Huron Hospital has stated the PHI of a number of patients was exposed in a cyberattack at a former business associate, MCG Health. MCG Health offers patient care guidelines to numerous health plans and about 2,600 hospitals in the U.S.A. On March 25, 2022, MCG Health found out an unauthorized third party got data from its system that contained data elements like names, medical codes,
Social Security numbers, postal addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birth dates, and gender. A lot of MCG Health clients were impacted by the breach.

McLaren Port Huron Hospital stated it was advised concerning the breach on June 9, 2022. The delayed notification meant it has not done its own investigation to know the possibility of an actual exposure of patient information. But it has sent notifications to all affected people to advise them of the probability that their PHI was stolen. McLaren Port Huron Hospital discontinued using MCG Health in 2019.

The data breach report has been sent to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights as affecting 48,957 McLaren Port Huron Hospital patients. Affected persons were provided complimentary identity theft protection and credit monitoring services for 24 months.

Kaiser Permanente Reports Stealing of iPad With PHI

Kaiser Permanente has started sending notifications to certain people about the theft of an iPad that held their protected health information. The iPad was stored in a locked storage area at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. An unidentified individual broke into the storage space and stole the iPad, and additionally obtained the password for accessing the gadget.

The device was utilized at a Kaiser Permanente COVID-19 testing area and had pictures of COVID-19 specimen labels and PHI i.e. names, health record numbers, dates of birth, and the dates and locations of service. The theft was identified on the same day and Kaiser Permanente remotely erased the data on the unit, including all photos.

Kaiser Permanente mentioned it has transferred devices comprising PHI to a safer place and has strengthened its internal practices and methods. Kaiser Permanente stated the iPad included the PHI of around 75,000 health plan members.